Research on Environmental and Community Health

Mission

The Mfangano RECH (Research on Environmental and Community Health) aims to better understand the links between the changes within the Lake Victoria fisheries and the impact on household fishery access, livelihoods, and child health. Rech means fish in Dholuo and stands for Research on Environmental and Community Health in our study.

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Background

The RECH study is led by researchers who first visited Mfangano in 2010 and, in discussions with the Mfangano residents were struck by the drastic changes in the Lake ecosystem, as well as people’s livelihoods and the ways they access food. The research study grew in collaboration with UC Berkeley researchers who were interested in better understanding coupled human and natural systems. With funding from the National Science Foundation, the research efforts were launched in 2012 to better understand the interlinked changes in both human and ecosystem health.

Program Description

On Mfangano, residents rely integrally on the health of the fishery, which, in turn, provides for local food security, livelihoods, and well-being. Rapid changes in the Lake Victoria fisheries, beginning in the 1960s with the introduction of Nile Perch, have long had rippling effects for people. The Nile perch introduction precipitated tremendous effects on land, including migration to the lake, increased fishing pressure, and high rates of HIV around the Lake’s shores. Yet, shifts in the ecosystem – both the fish species being harvested and declines in fish catch –continue to impact those that live around the lake. In the Mfangano RECH study, we integrate ecological, socioeconomic and health analyses to illuminate and predict how fish availability, household fish access, household wealth and livelihoods, and human health interact. Our results will have particular implications for Mfangano Island and Lake Victoria, and we hope they will also provide insight into other coupled human and natural systems.

Program Activities

    • Ecological Monitoring – working with Mfangano’s Beach Management Units, we monitor fish catch at each of the 19 BMUs around the island.
    • Household Survey – working with 300 local households, we collect longitudinal household data to understand the inter-related facets of fishery access, use and consumption; livelihood activities, income, and food security; and household morbidity, child health, and child development
    • Community Collaborations – we report back results to local BMUs and households, and work to translate our research results into nutrition and livelihoods programming for OHR

Partners

      • Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI)
      • University of California, Berkeley
      • National Science Foundation/li>
      • USAID Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research

Contact

Katie Fiorella, RECH Manager: kfiorella [at] organichealthresponse [dot] org