As we prepare to mark World Population Day, 11 July, the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), champion of conservation in Africa, draws attention to the link between human population and the environment.
The global human population is now more than 7.5 billion people. The United Nations estimates that this number will be nearly 9.8 billion by 2050 – this is 30% higher than it is today. Africa’s population is set to double over the same period, increasing at a rate that is 1.5 times the global average. It took until the early 1800s for the world’s population to reach one billion. Even with technological advancements, the Earth’s natural resources cannot support the growing needs of this number of human beings without degrading both the quality of human life and the environment on which we all depend.
The EWT was the first conservation NGO in South Africa to recognise the importance of Population, Health and Environment (PHE) programmes as a means of acknowledging women’s reproductive and health rights, and the role of empowering women to be in a position to determine their ideal family size. These kinds of programmes provide an important model for marginalised rural areas where community health and wellbeing is dependent on ecosystem health, like many of those in which the EWT operates. PHE programmes integrate improved sexual and reproductive health services with conservation actions and support for improved livelihoods. They have been proven to result in greater health, human welfare and conservation outcomes than single sector approaches, and the EWT is proud to be the only South African conservation organisation currently implementing such programmes.
The EWT believes that an integrated PHE approach is the most effective way to achieve sustainability and resiliency for people and the planet and therefore:
- supports and promotes investment in the provision of voluntary rights-based sexual and reproductive health services, information and education, in both developed and developing countries.
- supports universal access to decent education, and the empowerment of women and girls.
- recognises that interventions that reduce fertility rates must be matched with equal efforts to reduce resource consumption.
- believes in the power of integrated approaches to conservation, the empowerment of women, education and rights-based approaches to achieving sustainability.
- encourages government, business and civil society to develop and support integrated programmes that address the issues around human population, development and the environment in a holistic and collaborative approach.
The EWT believes that intergovernmental agencies, governments, and non-governmental environment and development organisations, need to work together more effectively and holistically to address the key drivers of population growth.