Improving the nutrition of HIV-affected households through home gardens in Malawi banner image

Improving the nutrition of HIV-affected households through home gardens in Malawi

Malawi-story-9.jpgFor people living with HIV, the importance of consuming enough nutritious food cannot be overstated. In addition to contributing to improved health, nutrient rich food is also a key component of successful treatment. However, vulnerable populations, like those living with HIV and AIDS, often struggle to access enough food and cannot afford to buy foods with high nutritional value on a regular basis. Such was the case for Felix Somba, a 50 year-old man from Masula Village in the Lilongwe District of Malawi.

Felix has two wives, Lusiya 46 and Nasonda 38, with whom he has a total of 5 children. Four years ago, he tested HIV-positive and two years later, both of his wives did as well. As the primary provider for both of his families and knowing the role eating nutritious food plays in combating the virus, the news that he and his wives were HIV-positive seemed like an insurmountable challenge.

In 2009, Felix’s life reached a turning point when CPAR Malawi came to his village through Farmers First. A Farmers Field School was established in his village where farmers could come together to learn from each other and share their experiences. The FF program targets the most vulnerable, including people living with HIV and AIDS and provides training on various topics including agriculture, nutrition and food security. “I openly declared my HIV status and was picked to join this FFS group in my village”, said Felix.

CPAR provided Felix and his group members with training in vegetable and livestock production. “With vegetable production the emphasis was on establishing backyard gardens and using drip irrigation to water them,” explained Felix. Each FFS member was supplied with a drip irrigation kit and start up vegetable seeds, which included high value nutritious vegetables such as amaranthus, rape, tomato, onion and mustard seeds. They were also given livestock to start livestock production activities, which they would pay forward to additional beneficiaries. Felix received 3 rabbits, 1 male and 2 female, which he has cared for and have reproduced, giving him 8 rabbits today. Felix is pleased with the rabbit production so far, stating, “These rabbits are good source of animal protein for my two families.”

Felix’s life has changed since the arrival of the FF program. Through his home garden, Felix is able to produce enough vegetables for his two families, leading to increased consumption of healthy and nutritious foods. He can also sell any surplus vegetables to both neighbours and the local market, earning on average CAD $2 a week, which Felix puts towards the needs of his household. “I am now free from debt. Before starting my own garden I had to obtain vegetables on credit for my family” said Felix. Felix has noticed a change in his village and is happy that today more individuals living with HIV are being open about their status. When asked to reflect on his involvement in FFS, Felix shared the following thoughts: “The program has really improved our health and nutrition and afforded us some economic benefits at the same time. We are so grateful to CPAR for such wonderful initiatives.”

CPAR continues to promote the use of home gardens as a means to improved nutrition, diversifying diets and overall improved health status for all FFS members, especially those affected by HIV and AIDS.