24 May Expanding CTPH’s innovative model to Mt. Elgon, Uganda
Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH) was awarded the Japanese Most Innovative Development Program from the Global Development Network (GDN) in 2013 for its integrated population, health and environment program that trains existing Village Health Teams to integrate conservation and sustainable livelihoods into their community public health outreach around Uganda’s protected areas.
Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) are created in each of the communities and spearheaded by the newly trained Village Health and Conservation Teams (VHCTs) to create incoming generating projects that will sustain the program beyond donor funding. CTPH has successfully trained VHCTs living near Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in western Uganda and now, with funding from GDN, we are scaling up our program to Mt. Elgon in eastern Uganda.
Mt. Elgon straddles the border of Uganda and Kenya and is known for its high peaks, bird watching and dense forest. The ecosystem around Mt. Elgon is fragile with many of the communities relying on the park as a clean source of water and for other natural resources. In 1992 the Ugandan government declared Mt. Elgon a national park recognizing the need to protect the ecology of the area. Following the park being gazetted, many people were evicted from their land creating tension between the communities and Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) that still lingers today. In addition to loss of land, communities suffer from poor sanitation and hygiene, high fertility rates, lack of nutrition and high-risk for the spread of infectious diseases. Furthermore communities continue to encroach on the national park’s land to graze animals and gather resources illegally. This has led to further degradation of the park’s ecosystem and contamination of the fragile water source. CTPH realized that communities here would greatly benefit from the integrated approach to conservation and public health.
The workshop taught the principals of joint conservation and health programming while also allowing UWA to meet face to face with community members in order to find common ground and understanding. As communities move forward with CTPH’s program they will work closely with UWA and their local governments to ensure the program is sustainable and fully integrated into their communities. Furthermore, each of the parishes represented have chosen group livestock income-generating projects as their VSLA projects. Money generated from the project will be able to provide VHCT community volunteers with loans to pay for school fees, medical expenses, and other income generating projects; and will ensure the VHCTs are able to continue their public health and conservation outreach.
Following the trainings, we were encouraged by the commitment of the new VHCTs, UWA and local officials to carry out the program in Mt. Elgon. “[UWA] is serving Mt. Elgon for your benefit and the benefit of your children” stated John Tugume of UWA. He sums up perfectly what the CTPH workshops teach: when the national park is protected and conserved, communities will benefit today, tomorrow and for years to come.