Let’s do it ourselves! Our first Population, Health and Environment Project in South Africa

April 25, 2017

 

“A Re Itireleng” is a Setswana phrase, meaning “Let's do it ourselves”. This is the name the community of Groot Marico gave the project we are implemented jointly with the Endangered Wildlife Trust, and Pathfinder International. A Re Itireleng project actions will address the inter-linked health and environmental challenges faced by this rural and remote community in the North West Province of South Africa.

The community relies on its water supply from the unique and highly sensitive Marico River, a watercourse of national significance, as its headwaters are one of the few remaining free-flowing stretches of river in South Africa. The Marico River is not only an important water source for the community of Groot Marico itself, but also for all the settlements downstream, and is increasingly under threat as this is a vulnerable arid area impacted by erratic rainfall and erosion issues. The area is increasingly vulnerable due to South Africa’s droughts, the impacts of climate change, and increasing demands being placed on water from a growing population.

The North West is the South African province with the second highest fertility rate nationwide and in rural areas, such as around Groot Marico, the rate is higher still. This is partly due to barriers to accessing family planning information and services. In fact, the community self-identified the need for greater access to family planning services, as well as training in alternative and sustainable livelihoods to improve their health, well-being and future. This integrated “Population, Health and Environment” project addresses these complex and related challenges.

We are leveraging our long standing history of improving knowledge on sexual and reproductive health and rights to improve community knowledge of the links between human and ecosystem health and the relevance of rights-based family planning as contributing to environmental sustainability, in addition to improving women and girls’ health and empowerment. The EWT is providing training to emerging farmers on sustainable and alternative livelihoods to empower the community by allowing them to generate an income from their land while also preserving it and respecting the surrounding environment. The population, health and environment messages are being delivered as an integrated training package jointly by a family planning nurse and a community trainer, working for the third partner, Pathfinder International.

Pathfinder International’s project family planning nurse was appointed in March 2017 and immediately begun assessing medical facilities, to find out what family planning methods and services are available and how to improve these services.

We are confident that through the community and clinic level interventions, this community will take control of the challenges facing them with resulting improved health of the community members and their surrounding environment.