Forging the Link: Emerging Accounts of Population and Environment Work in Communities

Today, nongovernmental organizations involved in environmental, community development and population activities are looking for evidence of the effectiveness of linked services. What they seek is written and easily communicated information indicating whether linking these services at the community level has been a cost-effective way to improve reproductive health and livelihood, to slow population growth and to protect local environments.

This report provides an early and rapid assessment of the state of documented evidence and evaluation of Community-Based Population and Environment projects (CBPE). The research presented here establishes that while there have been some attempts to evaluate the impact of linking reproductive health and environmental services, most of the evidence is anecdotal. Yet even anecdotal material can lend support to the hypothesis that linking reproductive health and natural resources management often justifies the efforts and costs involved.

While a summary of lessons learned or a judgment about the overall success or failure of linked projects would be premature, the reports and documents reviewed nonetheless reveal consistent themes worthy of attention. Among those identified and discussed in this publication are: CBPE projects provide holistic services that are understood and appreciated by community members. The organizations involved strive to meet a range of the needs of hard-to-reach populations. And the projects show strong evidence of sustainability based on their use of human resources available within the community.

Linking reproductive health services and environmental programs can facilitate entry into a community, involve more men in reproductive health, improve the overall condition of women and, in the long run, be more cost effective than comparable single-sector approaches, at least in the communities involved. Application of this linkage in communities assists families to plan and manage family size, spacing of children and their use of natural resources. By the available evidence, linked-service projects have engaged and interested women in environmental activities.

As experience with CBPE projects increases and efforts to evaluate and document their impact expand, the benefits of linked service community-based population and environmental projects should become even more apparent.

Table of Contents

  • Summary
  • Acronyms
  • Introduction
  • The State of the Documentation
  • Working Holistically to Meet Community Needs
  • Leveraging Program Goals: Reproductive Health
  • Leveraging Program Goals: The Environment
  • Expanding the Reach
  • Appendices