“One Health” is a concept that jointly addresses human, animal and ecosystem health through a multidisciplinary approach that brings together veterinarians, medical and public health professionals and environmentalists.
CTPH has been implementing a successful community health and conservation model in Bwindi since 2007 with funding from USAID and other donors. Community health is implemented through Village Health Teams, a recognized Ministry of Health (MOH) structure in Uganda who are trained as Village Health and Conservation Teams (VHCTs) to promote health together with conservation as well as community livelihoods. VHCTs are local community volunteers who deliver integrated community based public health services to promote good health-seeking behavior, hygiene practices, infectious disease prevention and control, family planning, nutrition; and conservation education to individual households. VHCT networks are sustained through group livestock income generating projects, which they reinvest into Village Saving and Loan Associations (VSLA). CTPH focuses especially on engaging women, both as VHCTs as well as during VHCT activities as women are primarily responsible for their families’ health and wellbeing and are, therefore, in the best position to make positive changes for improved household health. As VHCTs, women taken on a leadership role in the community, elevating their status and supporting improved gender balance in the community.
CTPH successfully scaled up the Village Health and Conservation Team (VHCT) and Village Saving and Loan Association (VSLA) model from Kanungu to another district, Kisoro around Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, home to the world’s critically endangered mountain gorillas. This was supported with funding from Global Development Network after winning 1st prize of the 2012 Japanese Most Innovative Development Project Award for scaling a social service delivery model. Winning the 1st prize enabled CTPH to apply for further funding from GDN through the Japanese Social Development Fund (JSDF) to expand the VHCT and VSLA model to two additional protected areas – Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Mount Elgon National Park in Uganda. In the Mount Elgon region, we are working in Bukwo, Bulambuli and Kween districts in Eastern Uganda. In the Virunga region, we are working in Mount Tshiabirimu and Mikeno sectors, where the eastern lowland and mountain gorillas are found. This project involves training VHCTs to promote conservation and community livelihoods using lessons learned and best practices from Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
CTPH first trained CCAHWS at Queen Elizabeth National Park (QENP) in 2007 and later scaled up this integrated approach to Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve, in Nakapiritpirit District, Karamoja region of Eastern Uganda in 2014. Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve (PUWR) also has endangered species including cheetahs, roan antelope and eland. With funding from the French Embassy Social Development Fund, we trained Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) park rangers to recognize and report clinical signs in wildlife as well as collect samples from animals found dead in the park; and Community Conservation Animal Health Workers to promote conservation, animal and human health using a “One Health” approach in partnership with UWA and Nakapiritpirit District local government.
Through training CCAHWS we have changed the attitudes of local communities towards wildlife conservation and UWA. This resulted in the QENP CCAHWS rescuing two baby elephants that were drowning near their villages, which were taken to the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre. This is the first time UWEC has housed elephants promoting conservation education where for most Ugandan children, this is the only opportunity the will have to see and appreciate elephants, another endangered species. At PUWR, two baby cheetahs were rescued by local communities in 2015, and with support from CTPH, eventually transferred to UWEC where they are enabling Ugandan to see cheetahs for the first time. Cheetahs are another critically endangered species with only a few in Uganda.
We are very grateful to the UK based Darwin Initiative who funded a three-year joint project with Oxford University, International Institute of Environment and Development (IIED), UWA and Jane Goodall Institute to evaluate how health investments made by CTPH at Bwindi, have contributed to conservation and sustainable development outcomes. Lessons from this study were shared in a Uganda Poverty and Conservatioon Learning Group (U-PCLG) policy brief, (https://pubs.iied.org/g04430) as another way to measure the value added of integrated Population, Health and Environment (PHE) and One Health approaches, and was used to effectively scale the Bwindi VHCT and VSLA model to Budongo Forest Reserve, home to the endangered chimpanzees and Mt Elgon National Park frequently affected by landslides and other extreme environmental conditions.