Health In Harmony – Indonesia, Madagascar and Brazil

Health in Harmony (HIH) is an international nonprofit dedicated to reversing global heating, understanding that rainforests are essential for the survival of humanity. Using the innovative process of Radical Listening, HIH collaborates with rainforest communities – to create a world where local communities, rainforests, and the planet all thrive. They operate in Indonesia, Madagascar & Brazil, across various sociocultural norms and contexts.

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Health In Harmony’s (HIH) model has been successfully implemented in three different countries, and is putting the rainforest community at centre stage, so, in each locality the approach is different, adapted to the context and needs of the communities.

These are the 8 steps that Health in Harmony structured to support communities to get on their pathway to connect their wellbeing with environmental/forest health:

  1. Desktop assessment and gathering of cultural information so that the listening can be as informed as possible
  2. Selecting a local co-listener who is then trained in radical listening
  3. Ask the community leaders to gather men and women and to make sure to include leaders of community organizations/cooperatives
  4. Community meetings with 30-100 people. One meeting per local administrative unit or at least one per population of 1,000 people. In some areas the population is less dense, in that case more meetings per population need to be held.
  5. This initial meeting usually results in 2-5 key solutions where there is clear resonance in the group that these are critical solutions. We have found that in a given ecosystem each meeting will independently come to the same conclusions.
  6. Once the large-scale solutions are identified, refinement meetings are held with community leaders over a larger area. For example the first meetings may have identified improved health care through mobile clinics as one of the solutions. In the second meeting the specifics will be worked out such as where and how often the health visits will happen and what to do when someone is sick in-between visits.
  7. Agreements are signed with community leaders with all the details of what each party is agreeing to. These include a commitment on the part of the community to “try” and protect the forest but they do not require that this happen.
  8. Radical listening is an iterative process. This is to say that as solutions are enacted other challenges may arise and these will then be addressed in community meetings.

And here are 3 golden rules for HiH: community trust, community ownership & community consent.

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The Radical Listening® methodology has been carefully refined over 15 years to ensure that the team understands the historical and cultural context of an area before partnering with communities. Forming relationships with existing NGOs in an area and slowly building relationships, and therefore trust, with Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IP & LC) around tropical rainforests, HIH starts with the assumption that IP & LC have the best understanding of their needs and the solutions that would make sense for them.

Health In Harmony has found that in every location they work, communities design intersectional solutions that usually have a health, livelihoods, and education component so that both communities and the forest can thrive.

In Madagascar, the communities designed a Forest Guardian program, employing community members to monitor and protect the Manombo Rainforest, facilitate communication, and train communities on rainforest and biodiversity protection. To make the linkage clear between forest health and human health, the health programs in all three sites use Forest Guardian observations of forest degradation to offer health discounts to communities that have decreased or are no longer degrading the forest. To ensure equitable access, medical patients can also pay for healthcare with non-cash payments such as seedlings and handicrafts to make care more affordable.

In Brazil, HIH has focused on increasing access to preventative healthcare, per the communities’ request. As a result, fewer treatments for acute diseases were documented, compared to previous expeditions. This improvement in health supports the wisdom of Xingu communities in advocating for preventative healthcare to be made accessible without leaving their land, and will allow future health expeditions to focus on more systemic health issues like malaria and substance abuse. To further develop healthcare in the Amazon, HIH and communities designed professional education and mentoring opportunities for community health workers, increasing their capacity to diagnose and treat routine illnesses on-site.

IP & LC in the Xingu region highlighted the Forest Economy as an important aspect and requested support from HIH in ensuring success. Under the direction of a forest economy specialist, HIH has increased capacity to work alongside communities participating in the region’s forest economy system: The Cantinas Network. HIH assists with the success of this network, in which 26 Xingu communities harvest and sell non-timber forest products like oils, nuts, and handicrafts.

In Indonesia, discounted healthcare is available to communities with lower rates of logging, and medical patients can pay for healthcare using seedlings, handicrafts, and cash. Recently, “seedling banking,” or proactively paying for treatment with seedlings, has increased in popularity.

HIH’s affiliate in Indonesia, ASRI, assists community members to reforest critical rainforest, including areas of peat swamp, agroforestry, and wildlife corridor expansion. This increase in reforestation was coupled with deforestation monitoring conducted by Forest Guardians. Their findings help to determine the level of healthcare discounts each village was eligible for, and they conduct conservation education in their villages.

ASRI and HIH also partner with community members through alternative livelihood support. The Chainsaw Buyback program supports former loggers’ transition to new occupations such as fishing and beekeeping. The Goats for Widows program gives widows goats which can be bred and used for milk and manure. The Garden to Forest agroforestry program supports farmers to transition their fields within the national park area back to forest cover, in addition to organic farming training being provided to community members.

While the programs have common themes of healthcare access and alternative livelihood training across areas, the structure and implementation of these programs varies based on the local contexts. Centering IP & LC voices throughout the solution design and implementation ensures that the programs will be culturally relevant and appropriate. Partnering with other NGOs in the area helps prevent redundancies in services provided.

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Who’s best to contact

·      JonathanJennings  – CEO

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