The Role of Social and Gender Inclusion in Integrated Health and Conservation Work

Social and gender inclusion expert, Nathalie Simoneau of the World Wildlife Fund will discuss her role in incorporating social policies into WWF’s global programs in addition to touching on various projects she’s been involved with using the PHE framework.

About the Speaker

Nathalie Simoneau, Director, Gender and Social Inclusion, WWF-US

Nathalie Simoneau joined WWF in 2010 as part of the People and Conservation team working on population, health, and environment (PHE) initiatives. She has a background in public health nutrition and food security and holds a Masters’ Degree from McGill University’s Centre for Indigenous Peoples’ Nutrition and Environment. She has worked for nearly 20 years in program design and implementation at the nexus of health, development, and conservation in Central African countries, Mozambique, Nepal, Cambodia and with Indigenous communities in Northern Canada. Nathalie focuses on ensuring proper mainstreaming of cross-cutting issues into WWF conservation programs globally and promotes and ensures the application of social policies and principles into all WWF’s work. She is also a member of the Core Team responsible for WWF Network’s Environmental and Social Safeguards Framework (ESSF) roll-out. She provides strategic and technical guidance, and supports policy and advocacy efforts through various international platforms, to influence adoption of integrated approaches in conservation programming, to reach more sustainable human wellbeing and conservation outcomes.



Microfinance and livestock gifts have addressed women especially. Have they worked in lifting women out of poverty?
These types of initiatives can definitely work, however they need to be well thought through and developed with a structure for long-term support to build the capacity of the recipient groups.  WWF’s experience has been mixed especially when it comes to small animal husbandry since this approach requires a structure of support that is costly and demands a high level of capacity building to ensure the recipients have a plan for caring and feeding the livestock appropriately to avoid diseases and transmission, which includes veterinarian costs and can become quite expensive and difficult to manage.  However, other types of support have proven quite efficient in various contexts in WWF-supported landscapes, when developed/co-created with the stakeholders to respond to local needs and find local solutions.  In the DRC for example, we have had great success with supporting women’s groups who develop their savings groups and develop enterprises relating to the transformation of non-timber forest products or the processing of staple foods into higher quality products, that are then sold for a higher price at the local market, increasing women’s ability to earn an income to lift them out of poverty, and further invest into their saving’s groups to support other income-generating initiatives.  This has also proven efficient to support households to respond to family health crises or emergencies when needed, without sinking further into poverty.

Does WWF have a fuel-efficient stove program, if so how do I connect to it?
WWF has a number of different fuel-efficient stove programs, namely in Nepal and India (other Asian countries as well) where biogas stoves (using animal farm waste to produce the biogas) are promoted to decrease the use of wood as fuel and curb deforestation, land degradation while improving household air quality and reducing upper respiratory lung infections for women and children.

Follow this link to find out more about the biogas stove program in Nepal.

In the Congo Basin (especially in the east part of the DRC) we have a long-time program promoting improved cookstoves that decrease the need for wood or charcoal by more than 50% as compared to traditional cookstoves used in the area.  The program is called EcoMakala and is implemented in areas around the Virunga National Park.  This program promotes the establishment of plantations of local species of fast-growing trees to produce charcoal and reduce deforestation of the nearby Virunga National Park forest while promoting the use of improved cookstoves to reduce household consumption of charcoal by more than half the usual consumption with the traditional cookstoves.

You can follow this link to find out more about this program.

I would like to see more about what you just said about showing people patterns of deaths, pregnancies, etc. Do you have a link to an article on it?
I do not have an article about this approach that has been used by the local health staff in the project area to conduct awareness-raising and training of local focal points, who ultimately are responsible to educate their communities on issues relating to family planning and reproductive health and the use of best practices around these issues.  This is a mapping exercise that creates a recognition by participants of the health issues present in their community, as opposed to having the trainer point out these health issues, as a first activity in the training workshop.  This exercise requires participants to group themselves together by community to discuss their knowledge of mortality and morbidity in their community over a period of 6-12 months.  They gather information around the death of community members and the reasons why they think these people died.  It usually creates a map that links deaths to a number of issues such as the cycle of high poverty, malnutrition, and disease perpetuated by unplanned and frequent pregnancies affecting the health of mothers, their newborn and that of older children in the household, and the ability of parents to provide for their children, including proper care, food education and developmental support they should receive to grow healthy beyond the age of 5.

How did you try to address the food/nutrition deficits with the Baka people?
There are multiple approaches used for this issue.  The Baka in Cameroon have access to natural resources inside National Parks, as per a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed with the government. Therefore, this gives the Baka the rights as Indigenous Peoples to harvest natural resources, including food and medicinal plants, to preserve their cultural and spiritual heritage, their way of life to ensure their survival.  Also, since the Baka are also involved in agriculture, as they are becoming more and more sedentary, by providing training on sustainable and improved agricultural techniques which improve yield and decrease deforestation, promoting appropriate feeding practices and cooking demonstrations to prepare complementary foods for infants and toddlers using local, nutrient-dense foods, all of these approaches contribute to improving the Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities ability to recognize the signs of malnutrition, to know how to address this issue and ultimately to prevent it from happening.

Do people in these conservation areas ever ‘adopt’ local wildlife individuals as ‘pets’?
Since it is illegal to adopt wildlife as pets, this is done through hidden pathways and networks, mostly to satisfy the demand at the international market level.  For example, poaching to satisfy the illegal wildlife trade is present and is done through poaching networks.  In the southeast Cameroon region, the illegal trade of grey parrots (and other animal species as well) is a huge problem, where these parrots are captured to be sold as pets most often for international markets.  Addressing and curbing problems relating to illegal wildlife trade is central to strategies that many conservation organizations like WWF work on, at all levels, from local on-the-ground programs to regional and international strategies that support the development of policies and actions to address these issues.

What are some immediate next steps we can take to support the work covered in your discussion?
Continue to advocate among the donor and the decision-maker communities working in the field of conservation, to support the adoption of integrated approaches (holistic and multisectoral approaches such as PHE) in their conservation programming, to improve human and ecosystem wellbeing and ultimately to achieve better and more sustainable conservation outcomes.

Clarifying: Does WWF think that high human population levels are detrimental to wildlife?
I responded to this question yesterday, but, essentially, what I said is that: the pressures a growing population exercises on natural resources, including on wildlife, may lead to the depletion and degradation of these very natural resources these populations depend upon for their survival and for the wellbeing of future generations.  Therefore, land use mapping and natural resources management plans developed in a participatory and inclusive way with local communities, and that take into consideration equitable economic opportunities and sustainable livelihoods; combined with the provision of basic health and social services these populations need to thrive, are all critical to helping preserve the cycle of human and ecosystem health.  This is even more critical now as we are faced with the challenges of climate change and need to support climate-smart and nature-based solutions to ensure the resilience of communities and nature.