In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, urban gardening brings a livelihood and critical nutrition to a country where the Joint U.N. Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) reports more than 800,000 people live with HIV and 1 million are AIDS orphans.
The Urban Gardens Program first started as a joint effort by local nonprofit Progress Integrated Community Development Organization (PICDO) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). With funding from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the Program combined sustainable agriculture and public health to provided women and children affected by HIV with nutritional vegetables and a way to generate an income.
According this USAID video featuring some of the gardeners, children gardening at their schools typically sell 70 percent of the produce and take the rest home to their family or caretakers. As stated in the World Health Organization’s (WHO) publication, Living Well with HIV/AIDS, adequate nutrition is essential for maintaining health and allowing the body’s immune system to fight infectious viruses such as HIV.
The program helps women and children develop useful skills and infrastructure, such as knowledge of soil preparation, drip irrigation and produce marketing.
PEPFAR funding for the program officially ended in 2012, after reaching 115,680 orphaned or vulnerable children, forming 384 group savings and loan associations and providing recommendations for urban agriculture policy. Through PICDO and donations by local schools, the gardens continue to bring nutrition and financial stability to low income and vulnerable Ethiopians.
At the close of USAID’s involvement in the program, former project leader Nancy Russell said it biggest legacy is the “sustainability of gardens and the newly empowered gardeners who will continue to mentor others in their communities.”