Originally published on November 10, 2014.
Many people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHIV) suffer from social isolation and stigma, which can impact their self-esteem and status within their communities. But, for many affected individuals, increased incomes and job responsibility can play an important role in diminishing these problems.
As part of the Ethiopian Dairy Development Project (EDDP), Land O’Lakes International Development worked to help PLHIV generate additional income along the dairy value chain, in partnership with the Dawn of Hope PLHIV Association. Made possible through USAID and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the EDDP program provided some 10,000 PLHIV with income generating opportunities that are providing steady work and incomes, as well as improved emotional well being.
HIV is not a problem for our cooperative members. We have shown the government and our community we can live and work and be successful. I am very confident now.
One of the groups EDDP worked with was the Egnaw Laegnaw Dairy Farm in the town of Debre Birhan, which enabled 20 PLHIV to better move forward with their lives. Egnaw Laegnaw was just one of 35 dairy farms that were created though EDDP.
With technical assistance from Land O'Lakes, the PLHIV formed a cooperative. Through skillful management of their herd of seven cows and four calves, the members generated more than $370 in net profit by selling milk and dung cake, the latter which was used for fuel. Wanting to grow their business, the cooperative members all agreed to reinvest the money in their business rather than receive dividends.
In addition to creating a growing sense of financial stability, members report that they became respected members of their communities. A cooperative leader, Tekalaragye Getachew, explained, “Establishing our cooperative was challenging. The community viewed us as dependent individuals but, because of our hard work, we have become famous in the community.” He added, “We have shown we can manage our families, and our milk is in high demand. HIV is not a problem for our cooperative members. We have shown the government and our community we can live and work and be successful. I am very confident now.”
Members also reported positive psychological effects. “Before joining the cooperative, I was isolated and depressed. Now I am very happy looking after the cows; I always want to be with them.” Getachew concluded, “Dairy farming is interesting. Everything is a potential source of income: milk, calves, dung. Caring for the cows has helped to bring us out of our depression. I find it satisfying.”
As the Laegnaw dairy farm cooperative demonstrated, engaging in dairy income generating activities (IGAs) can result in strengthened emotional well-being, destigmatization and financial stability for PLHIV.