Sharing the Forest in Uganda

Improving People's Health Can Protect Endangered Gorillas, Says New Report

Oct 08, 2008

On the outskirts of Uganda's remote Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, endangered mountain gorillas forage in local gardens. Rapid population growth has pushed people to settle near the gorillas' habitat—sometimes leading to conflict. But an innovative community development program seeks to conserve these magnificent animals by improving the quality of life for Ugandans living near Bwindi, say Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka and Lynne Gaffikin in the latest issue of Focus.

Their program, Conservation Through Public Health, trains community volunteers to monitor diseases like tuberculosis that can pass from humans to gorillas. Other volunteers teach couples how to use modern family planning methods that make it easier for them to provide for their children—and reduce the pressure on the forest and its inhabitants.

In a recent podcast interview, Kalema-Zikusoka told ECSP's Sean Peoples, "The people who we work with in the communities directly bordering the park are extremely poor and they have very huge families—an average of 10 children per family…Because they can't send [all] their children to school, they're not able to get good jobs and get out of the poverty cycle."

Kalema-Zikusoka presented population, health, and environment (PHE) lessons from East Africa, along with Kuntai Karmushu of Kenya's Il Ngwesi Group Ranch and Emmanuel Mtiti of the Jane Goodall Institute's program in Tanzania at the Wilson Center in May 2008 (video, presentations, transcripts). All three speakers are part of the new East Africa PHE Network, which emerged from the November 2007 conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

At "Human, Animal, and Ecosystem Health," Kalema-Zikusoka and her fellow speakers Steve Osofsky and Deana Clifford discussed the integral relationship between human, livestock, wildlife, and environmental health (video, presentations, transcripts).

ECSP's ongoing series "PHE: Building the Foundation for the Next 10 Years" continues on October 23rd with "Field Trips: Population-Health-Environment Projects in Kenya, DRC, and Madagascar."

To keep up with the latest PHE news on policy and practice, please join the PHE Policy & Practice Listserv, which is open to anyone working on PHE issues around the world, including field practitioners, policymakers, advocates, and researchers.

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