Gardens for Health International (GHI), a 501(c)(3) organization, enables people living with HIV/AIDS to improve their nutrition, treatment adherence, and health through sustainable agriculture initiatives. Currently working in Rwanda, GHI is in the second year of a two-and-half year pilot program. We work in partnership with the Rwandan Network for People Living with HIV/AIDS to support small business cooperatives of people infected and affected (family members) by HIV/AIDS.
Our current programs include:
Cooperative Formation and Land Advocacy--We assist support groups of people infected and affected by HIV/AIDS become small business cooperatives with bylaws, bank accounts, and leadership structures. Cooperatives then lobby the local government for access to land.
Cooperative Lending: Cooperatives may qualify for loans of up to $2,300 to implement 1-3 hectare community "gardens;" garden products include but are not limited to variety of fruits and vegetables, maize, beans, talapia, and rabbits.
Home Gardens: Individual members may apply for a home garden. A GHI agronomist comes and helps the individual plant trees (fruit,neem, and moringa) and plant vegetables in raised beds (sometimes in tires and sacks!).Home gardens provide direct household access to nutritious foods that are otherwise expensive or hard to find.
Technical Assistance: GHI agronomists are on the fields and at homes each day, providing hands-on assistance and training.
Nutrition and Sustainable Agriculture Education: GHI's staff includes a part-time Nutritionist who holds cooking demonstrations with cooperatives and has developed other education materials, such as a recipe booklet. GHI worked Rwanda's Ministry of Health to write, publish, and distribute a Home Garden Handbook. GHI agronomists also hold day-long workshops in sustainable agriculture techniques.
Market Linkages and Income Generation: GHI assists cooperatives with identifying markets and transporting their produce. In the future, GHI sees the potential to help cooperatives mill and fortify staple crops and build up credit histories such that cooperatives may apply for loans from financial institutions.
We are currently lending to ten cooperatives but plan on doubling our size in the next year! We are also exploring the possibility of staffing sustainable agriculture community workers at hospitals to set up home gardens for home gardens for other vulnerable households, regardless of HIV-status.