Nutrition-based businesses power lives of HIV-positive Women and Youth

It’s midday in Kibera and on the sides the winding dirt passage ways in the informal settlement , a group of residents stand around two charcoal stoves with large cooking pots (sufurias) of steaming githeri (boiled mixture of beans and maize) and beans stew.

The group is fighting for the attention of 47-year-old Beatrice Lando, who is serving the cereal meal in polythene bags going for Ksh10 (USD0.9) for every cup she scoops. From the proceeds of her business, Beatrice, a mother of four - will be able to provide food and other basic needs for her family and still save Ksh100 ($1) every week.

From the savings, Beatrice whose husband died in 2002, has bought a piece of land in her rural home in Budalangi, Western Kenya, where she plans to build a home for her family.

We were both diagnosed with HIV in 2002 but my husband refused to accept his status. He also refused to seek Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) and instead opted to marry a second wife. He later became very ill as a result of not taking the recommended treatment and later succumbed to the disease. After his death, his extended family accused me of infecting him with HIV and chased me away from our matrimonial home. ” Beatrice says.

Although Beatrice was told the life prolonging ARVs would boost her immunity, life became unbearable for her as she had no proper income to ensure a good diet and on several occasions she defaulted on her treatment as one is advised to eat before taking the treatment. This further exasperated her condition and she became very weak and sick.

Life however took a new turn for her when she was introduced to the Local Community Awareness Programme (LOCAP). LOCAP, a not-for-profit organisation, seek to create awareness on diseases like tuberculosis, diabetes, hypertension and comprehensive care for People Living with HIV and Aids (PLWHAs).Through the organisation, Beatrice was able to get a small loan to run her business and also benefit from psychosocial support from other People Living With HIV and AIDS (PLWHA).

“We have been mobilized into groups through which we are able to save and get loans to run small businesses to support ourselves and our families. Before one is given a loan, she must attend classes where one is trained on records keeping and other ways of running successful business.” Says Beatrice.

With an initial grant of Ksh1.6 million (USD16,000) from Kenya Community Development Foundation, LOCAP began a Nutrition-based Income Generating Activities programme (Nutri-IGAs)  to improve the lives of women and youth living with TB and HIV.

The Programme Director, Jackson Mose, says they have been able to improve adherence to ARV and TB medication among 60 women and 30 youth in Kibera slum by empowering them through the nutri-based IGA initiative.

 “We used to give business loans to residents under LOCAP but we realized there was a high rate of defaulting. When we investigated the cause of the high default rate, we established that some of the beneficiaries were falling sick and failing to attend to their businesses due to non-adherence to the drugs.” Mose says.

With high poverty levels in Kibera, malnutrition, lack of food and consumption pattern are significantly associated with non-adherence to ART, hastening the progression of AIDS-related illnesses on many youth and women.

To address the situation, LOCAP approached KCDF for funding to empower target beneficiaries to start food related income generating activities that would ensure they access proper nutrition as well as earn income for other requisite basic needs.

Through the programme, more than 78 beneficiaries were trained on proper nutrition while 48 were able to establish sustainable nutrition-based businesses.

“Women and youth who registered with the group are now able to earn regular income and get well balanced diet. They no longer depend on other people for handouts or a meal for that matter.”   Mose confirms.

The groups also benefit from monthly therapy meetings where the members discuss their achievements, challenges and solutions. To ensure the beneficiaries own the project, they are represented at the LOCAP board by a PLWHA who is able to champion their interests when it comes to setting priorities.

Stella Maundu, 30, who is a member of the Eight Mums Group, a member group of LOCAP, says that she has been able to get the much needed counselling as well as motivating and helping each to cope with emotional and social problems that come with living with HIV and AIDS.

Stella, used to do menial jobs in the neighborhood and the meager earning could not afford her a good nutritious meal for her 14-year-old set of twins and herself leading to non-adherence to medication. Stella was able to benefit from the group after receiving a small loan to establish her grocery shed in Kibera’s Laini Saba area.

“I set up this grocery business with the first loan from the group. My business has since expanded with subsequent loans and I am able to do value additions like making fruit salads and juice which I supply to various institutions and individuals.” Says Stella.

Through the business, the single mother can pay school fees for her set of twins who just completed their Kenya Primary School Education (KCPE) in 2014 as well as meet other family basic needs like food and house rent.

I no longer feel sick as often as I used because I take my medicine regularly and as prescribed.” Says Stella who was diagnosed with HIV in 2008 and enrolled for ART the same year.

Mose says through the Nutri-IGA project, LOCAP has been able to exert a lot of influence in the community by empowering women and youth who are now looked up to as role models because of their success managing their in income generating activities.

Because of the success of the programme, one of LOCAP’s board members has been appointed to the state-run Uwezo Fund, which aims at empowering the youth economically. Another group member was also appointed to the Makina Ward Community Development Committee.

We are now part of the consortium of NGOs in Kibera and our board members get invitations every time to give talks on business management and community health issues at various forums, including local churches.” Says Mose.

Although the funding from KCDF, given in four quarterly tranches, is meant to last for a year, Mose is not worried as they have put in place various measures to ensure continuity of the programme.

“Through KCDF, we learnt a lot of lessons on good governance, resource mobilization and project development which will ensure the programme continues on a solid path. We have also created linkages with several like-minded organisations through which we are able to mobilise funds and learn new ideas.” Mose concludes.

The groups’ savings and loans scheme from which beneficiaries are able to save as little as Ksh100 ($1) every week and take loans at 15 per cent interest rate per year, will ensure there is enough cash flow to keep the businesses on track.

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