Medicine not chainsaws: Indonesian clinic keeps villagers and forests healthy
(Adds information on U.N. climate award) By Michael Taylor Oct 27 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Offering affordable healthcare to communities living near forests could help reduce illegal logging and fight global warming, researchers said, as an organisation running such a service in Indonesia won a U.N. climate award on Tuesday.
Offering affordable healthcare to communities living near forests could help reduce illegal logging and fight global warming, researchers said, as an organization running such a service in Indonesia won a U.N. climate award on Tuesday. A new study led by Stanford University analyzed the health center serving 120,000 people, set up by U.S.-based Health In Harmony and a local nonprofit adjacent to Gunung Palung National Park in West Kalimantan on the Indonesian part of Borneo island.
Using satellite images and patient records from 2009-2019, researchers linked the health program to a 70% fall in deforestation compared with other national parks, equivalent to protecting more than 27 sq km (10 sq miles) of the forest. Study co-author Susanne Sokolow, a scientist at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, said the researchers had observed a strong reduction in the rate of forest loss.
"Importantly, we also found that the more engaged the villagers were in terms of how many times they visited the clinic or participated in conservation programs... the more impact we saw," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. The largest drop-offs in logging occurred next to villages that used the clinic the most, the study said.
Globally, about 35% of protected natural areas are traditionally owned, managed, used or occupied by indigenous and local communities, yet they are rarely considered in the design of conservation and climate programs, according to Stanford. Seeking solutions, Health In Harmony and its Indonesia-based sister organization Alam Sehat Lestari (ASRI) first questioned local communities and found that a key reason why they cut down trees was to pay for healthcare.
With this information, they established an affordable clinic in 2007, serving thousands of patients by accepting a range of alternative payments, such as tree seedlings, handicrafts, manure, and labor – a system created with the communities. Through agreements made with district leaders, the clinic also provided discounts to villages that could show evidence of reductions in illegal logging.
In addition, it offered training in sustainable, organic agriculture, and a chainsaw buy-back scheme. Health In Harmony was named winner of a U.N. Global Climate Action Award on Tuesday for its work to reverse deforestation, meet the health needs of communities, and empower women, farmers.
Alongside the Borneo clinic, it runs a kitchen garden program that has helped about 325 women grow and sell vegetables, as well as providing more than 280 goats to elderly widows to promote their financial independence. The Stanford study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, said the 70% fall in deforestation was equivalent to an averted carbon loss estimated to be worth more than $65 million, using European carbon market prices.
The researchers also measured significant falls in infectious and other diseases, such as malaria and tuberculosis. Monica Nirmala, executive director of the clinic from 2014 to 2018 and a board member of Health In Harmony, said the data in the study supported two important conclusions.
"Human health is integral to the conservation of nature and vice versa, and we need to listen to the guidance of rainforest communities who know best how to live in balance with their forests," she said in a statement. Stanford researchers are working with the two nonprofits as they look to replicate the approach with other rainforest communities in Indonesia, Madagascar, and Brazil.
(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)