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Dumpsite garden feeds a town

04 December 2012, 13:12 Trudy Tru

Ten women on a farm in the outskirts of Nakuru town are single handedly closing the nutritional gap for communities affected by HIV and AIDS spade by spade.

The women are working on what used to be a huge heap of waste from the Rift Valley Provincial General Hospital (PGH) and turning it into a lush mixture of vegetables and fruits.

Janet Rotich is among the ten women who have been feeding 7 000 orphaned and vulnerable children from 2 000 households from plot of just two and half acres.

Apart from the 2 000 households, inpatients at the Rift Valley PGH consume 10 per cent of the 90-tons of vegetable each year from the farm.

“Weekly, we supply vegetables to 10 centers within Nakuru County where people living with HIV and AIDS can access the vegetables at just KES 10 per kilo,” explains Rotich.

34 year old Leah Atieno is one of the beneficiaries of this project, as she buys the vegetables for resale.

“I make a weekly profit of KES1 000 selling the vegetables outside my house and this has enabled me to feed, clothe and educate my eight children,” Atieno says.

Desperation and the unfortunate circumstances surrounding the lives of people living with HIV saw the birth of vegetable farm under a project dubbed ‘Nuru ya Bonde’  through the support of APHIA plus.

The vegetable plot stands on a five-acre piece of land, which was formerly used as hospital dumpsite.

82 per cent of the land are used for vegetables including cabbags, amaranth (terere), nightshade (managu), kales (sukuma wiki), eggplant (biringanya), carrots and spinach among others.

According to the supervisor Eunice Ojale, the farm also produces fruits and the hospital gets a daily supply of the produce.

The farm also serves as a training centre for members of the community.

“We train different groups of people especially people living with HIV and AIDS on sustainable farming techniques. Some of them have started their own farms which we have visited to give further advice,” says Anthony Wekesa, the farm manager.

About 200 of their clients have been trained on vegetable farming; 75 per cent of them have their own gardens.

Those who do not have land and have been trained and advised to form groups to learn and grow together.

Caregivers attached to the programme identify needy homes where they supply vegetables for free especially to people who are too ill to work until they are strong enough to work and earn money to buy vegetables.

The programme also has an incentive allotment whereby those who cannot afford to buy vegetables can get them for free to enable them start a business; says Rose Abinya a community health worker.

Most of the members joined ‘Nuru ya Bonde’ as a result of poverty at the household level due to the impact of HIV. These people are enrolled in the home and community based programme.

These crops that they grow have a nutritional value that supplements on the ARVs for the people living with HIV and AIDS.

"Proper nutrition is critical in keeping away opportunistic infections that are a constant threat to persons living with HIV and AIDS," says Zacharia Keyah who is the programme coordinator for Family AIDS Initiative Response.

Sukuma wiki has Vitamin B12, an important component for the absorption of other minerals in the human blood system, while the other vegetables are rich in calcium and iron.

According to Nancy Mideva, an assistant at the St. Nicholas OVC centre, the vegetables grown in this farm have significantly contributed towards the reduction of the disease burden among various communities grappling with  devastating effects of HIV and AIDs.

It is one such initiatives that must be encouraged in various communities countrywide by the government and all stakeholders in our quest to provide proper nutrition to persons living with HIV and AIDs.

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