Self-Help Food and Fuel Supplements for Impoverished Communities in Kenya
Syano, Nicholas Mutuku
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, College of Natural Resources
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Infection by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus causing Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS) is a devastating pandemic worldwide. Globally an estimated 40 million people are currently infected with the virus and about 20 million people have died. Within Kenya’s population of 35 million at least two million people are living with HIV/AIDS disease while 1.5 million have perished from the scourge. Research suggests that malnutrition leads to immune system impairment, exacerbates the effects of HIV/AIDS, and contributes to a more rapid progression of the disease. Medication for HIV patients helps little in the absence of adequate nutrition. The lifesaving benefits of antiretroviral (ARV) treatment have been established in Kenya, but due to poverty and food insecurity leading to poor nutrition among HIV patients, the full benefits of ARV treatment are often nullified. Nutrition intervention to date is lagging, with current international humanitarian practices and research tending to focus on food aid supplements with little support for local production of a balanced, fresh and nutritional diet for people affected by HIV/AIDS. Urgent self-help food security is needed locally. A sustainable approach is to combine antiretroviral drugs with adequate nutrition from food grown locally by patients and their families themselves. To sterilize water by boiling and to cook food, these same HIV-affected persons need a sustainable, convenient and affordable source of domestic fuelwood, too. In Kenya, over 75% of the people use fuelwood as either firewood or charcoal as the most accessible source of energy. However, this practice has led to massive depletion of woody vegetation and fuelwood shortages spurring demand and skyrocketing prices of charcoal and/or firewood. Therefore, an environmentally and economically sound method of sustainable fuelwood production for domestic use in Kenya is an urgent need. Utilizing dryland indigenous trees and shrubs in polyculture agroforestry systems for sustained yield harvesting is an attractive alternative to the current unsustainable, illegal taking of wood from forest reserves. Small-plot agroforestry with native dryland woody species adapted to local conditions holds great promise for self-help fuel production. As part of GEM projects addressing HIV/AIDS and sustainable agriculture and forestry, this thesis addresses both critical needs of self-help food and fuel security for impoverished communities in Kenya. For self-help food production training, different organic gardening techniques such as compost-making, organic polyculture, square-meter garden and sack garden establishment, plant pest and disease management, and maintenance were deployed with over 1,200 persons trained and over 700 gardens installed within a one-year period. For self-help fuelwood production, a seedling nursery experiment was designed to test early growth responses of promising dryland woody species and provenances for sustainable fuelwood and charcoal production. Both kitchen garden and backyard domestic fuelwood systems can be implemented through a simple integrated, sustainable agroforestry design for family households in Kenya and elsewhere worldwide. This self-help food and self-help fuel project contributed significantly to GEM’s grassroots progress towards achieving six Millennium Development Goals: [MDG 1] eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; [MDG 3] promote gender equality and empower women; [MDG 4] reduce child mortality; [MDG 5] improve maternal health; [MDG 6] combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; and [MDG 7] insure environmental sustainability.