In the region of Eldoret, in Western Kenya, it seems everywhere you look, farmers are busy tending their fields. Growing food is how most people make a living around here.
Western Kenya is also a region where the HIV infection rate is high. The Academic Model Providing Access to Healthcare (AMPATH) is an organization that provides health services for Kenyans living with HIV/AIDS. But their action goes further and they are constantly looking for innovative ways to help their patients live productive lives.
AMPATH has partnered with the World Food Programme (WFP) in more than one way. People who come to them receive HIV medications and for six months, they receive food from WFP for themselves and their families to ensure they have enough to eat and to improve the success of their medical treatment.
“We believe that after 6 months, our patients will have become strong so they can go back and do their usual chores,” said Esther Oduli, a social worker with AMPATH. Most of the people receiving treatment own small plots of land where they grow maize, beans and other vegetables. AMPATH thought that with a little bit of help, they could farm more and better.
When Purchase for Progress, a WFP pilot programme that connects farmers to markets, came to the region in 2009, AMPATH saw an opportunity to improve the resilience of the people they assist.
“They get trainings, a lot of trainings, so they no longer do things the usual way,” explains Oduli. “They also know that they have a market. And because they sell to the World Food Programme, they need standards. The food has to be clean, it has to be quality and they think they have learnt a lot.”
Oduli says that partnering with WFP's Purchase for Progress has generated sustainable and reliable income opportunities for the HIV positive farmers she works with. They have learned new things about agriculture and business.
In some cases, the food grown by the farmers and purchased by WFP ends up on the plates of patients who have just joined AMPATH’s nutrition programme for people living with HIV/AIDS. “This food goes to benefit somebody else the same way they benefited,” concludes Esther Oduli. That's what you can call going full circle!