Research with communities around a protected area of rainforest in Borneo suggests a link between inadequate healthcare and the need to cut down rainforest. After years surveying almost 1,500 household and over 6,000 people living around Gunung Palung National Park in West Kalimantan, the study has results n issues relating to health, economic, and conservation indicators.
There were improvements across the board in health indicators (e.g. infant mortality, common disease symptoms, increase in child immunizations) and evidence of increased environmental awareness and concern about deforestation particularly among members of communities participating in the programs which are based on a simple concept – giving communities what they need in order to avoid cutting down the national park’s trees.
Initial surveys demonstrated that healthcare expenses were the biggest driver for community members who engage in illegal logging. Communities can meet their day-to-day needs through agriculture, but of someone falls ill, in order to pay for the unexpected costs of treatment, the easiest and fastest way to get money is to cut down trees. So the program offers inexpensive high-quality healthcare to anyone who needs it, but – as an incentive to reduce illegal logging – communities that sign a non-logging agreement get vastly subsidized healthcare.
Ninety-eight percent of community members believe that the program has decreased logging and according to one local leader: “Five years ago there were more than 100 people in my village doing illegal logging, now there are less than 10.”