Earth Island News
Global Service Corps
Food security and HIV/AIDS
Global Service Corps (GSC) Executive Director Rick Lathrop recently returned from an International Food Policy Research Institute conference, "HIV/AIDS, Food and Nutrition Security," in Durban, South Africa. This global assembly coincided with the expansion of GSC’s work in Tanzanian communities. Through the continuing development of the Seeds of Sustenance (SOS) Fellowship Program and the summer launch of nutrition training, GSC is working towards creating a more holistic approach to the pervasive issues of hunger and HIV/AIDS in Africa.
Beyond sick individuals’ own ordeals, HIV/AIDS devastates rural communities at the household, communal, and societal levels. Its effects include loss of labor, medical and funeral expenses, delayed agricultural activities, and depletion of family reserves. Meeting immediate caloric, nutritional, and other basic needs is essential if HIV/AIDS-affected households are to live in dignity and security. Good nutrition strengthens the immune responses of people living with HIV/AIDS, helping them combat opportunistic diseases, successfully metabolize their medications, and minimize those medications’ adverse side effects.
For rural communities, good nutrition begins with improved agricultural practices. Bio-intensive agriculture (BIA) methods are specifically designed for subsistence farming, promoting a diverse, high-nutrient diet. For the past 30 years, BIA methods have proven very successful at providing food security in an economically and environmentally viable way, while meeting society’s need for safe and nutritious food. Because of the higher yield resulting from these techniques, BIA farmers are able to grow healthful, nutritious food while also creating additional income from produce sale to support their families. Furthermore, individuals who have a secure income are less likely to engage in behavior that could lead to new HIV infections.
HIV/AIDS, food security, and nutrition are clearly interrelated for African communities, yet these issues are often treated separately in development efforts. GSC strives to address these fields jointly in its Seeds of Sustenance (SOS) Fellowship Program, and shorter-term volunteer programs. The SOS Program is designed to provide skills and practical information to rural African communities affected by HIV/AIDS. GSC recruits, prepares, and trains pairs of local and visiting fellows to become qualified instructors in the technical areas of HIV/AIDS prevention, nutrition, and BIA methods. This training is followed by a five- to eleven-month field placement at a participating organization’s offices. Fellows assist local participating organizations with the development of community training and education programs, and facilitate training in the field.
By pairing visiting fellows with their local counterparts, the program aims to provide community assistance and training that is both technically informed and culturally appropriate. By the end of the field placement, local fellows become experienced community trainers and continue to work to ensure the project’s long-term sustainability. The next SOS program is scheduled to begin in January 2006.
In addition to the SOS Fellowship, GSC is implementing its integrated approach into shorter-term volunteer programs in Tanzania. This summer, the first-ever nutrition training was held for volunteers in the June and July HIV/AIDS and Sustainable Agriculture programs in Arusha, Tanzania. The three-day introductory nutrition course was led by University of Minnesota-Duluth professor John Kowalczyk. The supplemental nutrition training enabled volunteers to teach Tanzanian students the importance of a healthful diet in combating HIV/AIDS. By combining nutrition education with BIA and HIV/AIDS training, GSC aims to reduce the incidence of HIV/AIDS while helping rural African communities affected by HIV/AIDS to achieve food and income security. For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.