UN World Food Programme

Kenya: HIV-positive woman on food aid now selling food to WFP

US Senator and WFP Goodwill Ambassador, George McGovern, receives a gift during his recent visit to Kenya. Copyright: WFP/Kenya

Margret* is a small farmer, but after contracting HIV, lost the strength to farm her land. With the help of antiretroviral drugs and nutritious food, she’s not only back on her feet but selling her crops to WFP through an innovative new programme that links small farmers to markets.

NAIROBI – Getting back to work wasn’t easy for Margret, 42, a smallholder farmer in AIDS-ravaged western Kenya. The illness had taken its toll on her, and only with the help of nutritional support from WFP was she able to endure the regimen of anti-retroviral drugs keeping the virus at bay. “I was too weak to farm and couldn’t do much work,” she said. “So I had to stop for a while. Thankfully, I was given food to eat together with the medicine, which helped me recover my strength.”

Proper nutrition is essential for people undergoing drug-therapy for HIV, as it improves the medicine’s uptake in the system, reduces side-effects and bolsters their willpower to keep taking the pills.

Back to work

Though the food and drugs helped to restore Margret’s health, getting back to work on her farm still presented a daunting challenge. Fortunately, she didn’t have to do it alone. Margret’s farmers organisation, the Kaptebee Sachangwan cooperative, enrolled with the Purchase for Progress initiative, a pilot project that trained her how to raise her yields and improve the quality of her crops.

Just as importantly, she learned about storage methods that allow her to delay selling her crops until after the harvest season, when prices are higher.

Looking forward

Margret’s farmers' cooperative was able to secure an important contract with WFP after proving that they could meet quality standards.

WFP purchased some 61 metric tons of maize from the farmers this year, ten bags of which came from Margret’s family plot. The sale made her US$ 292, which she used to pay her daughters school fees, buy seeds and fertilizer and less an extra 1.5 acres of land.

Margret is confident her yields this year will be significantly higher than last year, and that she will be able to feed her family in the future on her own.

*The name of the interviewed farmer has been changed to preserve anonymity