What impact have you had?
Now in the second year of its pilot phase, the GHI program has had already had a significant impact:
-10 small business cooperatives formed, composed of over 4,000 members and their families
-15 ha. under cultivation, with an additional 40 ha. made available by government
-49,702 kg of produce harvested from first three seasons (amaranth, beets, cabbages, carrots, cucumbers, eggplant, mushrooms, red onion, spinach, squash, sweet peppers)
-Over $6,325 in total cooperative income generated through sale of produce in the first three seasons
-Over 900 fruit trees and moringa trees planted
-500 home gardens established for individual members
-23 members trained as nutrition counselors
-3 full-time Rwandan employees: Program Coordinator, Community Garden Agronomist, Home Garden Agronomist
-1 part-time Rwanda employee: Nutritionist
-Demonstration garden established at Rwandan Network for Living with HIV/AIDS headquarters
-Kinyarwanda educational materials on nutrition and agriculture developed in collaboration with Ministry of Health
In the 2008-2009 program year, GHI made loans of seeds, tools, and compost in-kind. However, program participants and staff realized that this form of lending denied participants the opportunity to effectively manage a budget and plan. In the 2009-2010 program year, GHI staff determined credit ratings for individual cooperatives and made loans accordingly after cooperatives completed applications, budgets, and business plans, awarding a total of $19,300 USD for community garden inputs.
Partner with the community
Our partnership with the Rwandan Network for People Living with HIV/AIDS ensures that our program respects and responds to the needs of this community in Rwanda.
Listen to the community
Feedback from cooperative leaders and members shapes the program design on an ongoing basis; we have established formal mechanisms to ensure this process. For example, the introduction of monetary (rather than in-kind) loans and maize repayment came from cooperative members.
Invest in education and technical assistance
Working with the community, GHI strives to understand the skill sets that will ensure the program’s success.
Work with local government
We collaborate closely with local government actors, and participate in broader efforts of the Rwandan government to fight malnutrition.
Ultimate goal: Improved nutrition, ART adherence, and health of people infected and effected by people living with HIV/AIDS.
Cooperatives will continue to cultivate cooperative gardens, ensuring access to food and income, long after the initial investment.
Cooperatives will continue to improve the quality of their soil utilizing the sustainable agriculture.
Families will continue to plant and harvest in their home gardens, saving seed, and replanting after each season.
Families will continue to utilize cooking techniques and recipes that they learned from the nutritionist and nutrition counselors.
What will it take for your project to be successful over the next three years? Please address each year separately, if possible.
2010: Establish the viability of its financial model, expand to a new site within Rwanda, strengthen clinical ties, and identify a lending partner
Operating budget: $250k
Notes: Having implemented an extensive monitoring and evaluation system, GHI will be closely measuring the cooperatives’ ability to manage resources, meet deadlines, and maintain cash reserves. GHI’s model is comprehensive, but nevertheless limited; peer nutrition counselors will begin to refer patients to clinics and hospitals and vice versa.
Because so much of GHI’s cash is tied up in loans, we seek to move from a lender, to a guarantor, to a referrer for cooperatives with higher credit rankings. This would allow GHI to drastically expand its operations and ensure long-term sustainability. However, identifying the appropriate microfinance institution is critical.
2011: Expand to a new site within East Africa, continue explorations of staple foods production
Operating budget: over $400k
Notes: GHI is currently exploring expansion to one of Africa’s poorest countries, Burundi. In many ways Burundi very similar to Rwanda; however, it lacks much of the infrastructure (such as strong agricultural schools) that has facilitated our development in Rwanda. The program will likely look different in Burundi, as our entry point will be at a clinical, instead of a community, level. We will not be working exclusively with HIV-positive individuals, but through a rural hospital’s food security program. The move to a new country will be a powerful test for the program’s broader applicability, geographically and programmatically.
2012: Continue expansion throughout Rwanda, financed largely through a revolving fund and in partnership with the Government of Rwanda.
Operating budget: $750k
Notes: We believe that once we establish a revolving fund of $500k, we may begin to roll out a national expansion program that will eventually reach the 1,000 community support groups of people living with HIV/AIDS.
What would prevent your project from being a success?
As with any agriculture program, success in many ways depends on climate, and seasons made increasingly erratic by climate change could inhibit or undermine the program. The program is fortunate, though, because participants were granted access to marshlands, which allow for three growing seasons instead of the two rainy seasons. To further mitigate rainfall dependence, GHI has invested in irrigation systems, and the growing sites on the marshlands have endured through both rainy and dry spells. Nevertheless, the potential for poor rains or blight poses a threat with each season.
Many in this field regard the very premise of the GHI model — that the most vulnerable populations are capable of managing land and credit — as quite risky. Indeed, there are real reasons why most microfinance institutions will not lend to groups who identify as HIV-positive. Through experience, GHI has learned to mitigate risk by altering the model to include elements such as the credit-ranking system and regular evaluations of cooperative leadership and management. Individual and cooperative buy-in is critical to the model and it is possible that some groups would not benefit from training and would be unable, on an ongoing basis, to manage their resources and meet repayment deadlines.
As we explore expanding to Burundi, to a clinical setting, we must transition the program and ensure its broader applicability. We need to ensure enough flexibility to allow our model to work in a different setting, but not enough that we lose sight of our core values and expertise.