Growing nutritional and economic independence
During the summer of 2006, Brown University student Emma Clippinger and Yale University student Emily Morell ventured to Rwanda to help care for destitute HIV/AIDS patients. Emma recalls being shocked to find that hospitals were providing therapy to patients but not feeding them. Without enough food and calories, the medication was not fully effective and patients languished.

The young women thought of a solution: give HIV/AIDS patients the ability to grow their own food. Despite the government's long-standing policy of giving land only to those able to till it, the pair resolved to find a way for people with HIV/AIDS to gain access to arable land. Over the next two years, they formed the nonprofit Gardens for Health International (GHI). Gardens for Health is based on the premise that HIV/AIDS is a long-term disease that requires long-term nutritional support. Good nutrition is not a substitute for drug therapy, but it helps people infected with HIV/AIDS to stay healthy longer, adhere to drug therapy and maintain a better quality of life.

In 2009, Emma and Emily applied for and won the Dell Social Innovation Challenge grand prize of $50,000. In late 2011, Gardens for Health enrolled more than 100 new families into their programs and geared up for their second community Thanksgiving dinner, expected to draw more than 700 people.

The Dell Social Innovation Challenge
The University of Texas, with support from Dell, is building a global community of student innovators through our annual Dell Social Innovation Challenge and providing them with business mentors and cash prizes to solve the world's most pressing social issues. Since the challenge began in 2007, more than 15,000 students from 90 countries have proposed more than 3,000 ideas for tackling social and environmental problems. We've awarded more than $350,000 to teams from around the world who've had the courage, vision and passion to turn their "What Ifs" into action. Learn more about the challenge.

 ChallengeSolutionBenefit
Challenge:Solution:Benefit:
HIV/AIDS patients require both drug therapy and nutritional support for successful treatment. Food aid packages quickly relieve hunger, but offer little incentive for self-sufficiency and fail to provide long-term nutritional support.Address malnutrition and HIV/AIDS simultaneously by helping community groups gain access to land, providing supplies, offering nutrition and agriculture training, and developing income-generating agribusiness.Rwandans living with HIV/AIDS work together to produce their own high-nutrient food and generate income. Participants enjoy improved food security, nutrition and economic status as well as more effective HIV/AIDS treatment.

Sustainable nutritional support
People receiving HIV/AIDS treatment, known as antiretroviral therapy, need to increase their caloric intake by up to 50 percent and consume a variety of nutrients for the drugs to be effective. However, in sub-Saharan Africa, most people infected with HIV/AIDS don't have access to the nutritious food they need.

Gardens for Health addresses this need by helping people living with HIV/AIDS in Rwanda to develop sustainable nutritional support for themselves and their families. Gardens for Health provides:

  • Legal support to form cooperatives. Gardens for Health has helped 30 associations create 9 legal cooperatives and thus gain access to land. This cooperative model permits labor sharing, allows members days of rest and provides shares of each harvest to members who are not able to work in the field.
  • Supplies for community and home gardens. Through Gardens for Health, the cooperatives and the nearly 200 home gardens it helped establish, now have tools, seeds and organic manure. Cooperatives grow high-nutrient crops that are divided among their members, and they sell any surplus produce at markets.
  • Training in sustainable agriculture and nutrition. Two agronomists provide technical assistance to community gardens and home gardens, and trained cooperative members serve as peer nutrition counselors.
  • Income generation through agribusiness. Cooperatives can apply to Gardens for Health for loans to support income-generating agricultural activities.

Since winning, Emma and Emily have renewed their partnerships with three health clinics, and are planning to add a fourth. The women are gratified by the health improvements in formerly malnourished families, and by the enhanced health and nutritional awareness of their educational program graduates. More than 20,000 fruit trees have been planted in their nursery, and they have launched a community-supported agriculture program in Kigali.