Micro-gardening as an Innovative Approach to Achieving Community Sustainability among People Living with HIV/AIDS: The Senegal Experience

By Rachel Hanisch, Papa Salif Sow, Zeina Makhoul, Jared Tharp and Stephen Hawes.

Published by The International Journal of Sustainability in Economic, Social and Cultural Context

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Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), is the largest cause of death in sub-Saharan Africa. Many HIV-infected individuals face additional threats to their well-being due to the challenges they face in securing proper nutrition. Undernutrition can exacerbate an individual’s disease state, cause a loss of self-sufficiency, and negatively impact household and community productivity. Micro-gardening is an innovative approach to addressing food security issues in developing areas of the world, while simultaneously fostering community involvement toward achieving a sustainable solution to reducing the burden of disease in these populations. However, several logistical, educational, and community-level factors need to be considered for the successful implementation of a micro-garden. Senegal is an example where community leaders, local and international organizations have come together to establish thriving micro-gardens in both institutional and household settings for those suffering from HIV/AIDS and other diseases. The overall objective of this review paper is to outline a comprehensive and implementable strategy to micro-gardening in developing community settings. Specifically, we will describe: a) the ways in which micro-gardening can contribute to community sustainability, b) the key components of a successful micro-garden system, and c) the experience of creating micro-gardens in health care and household settings in Senegal.

Keywords: Microgardening, HIV, AIDS, Senegal

The International Journal of Social Sustainability in Economic, Social and Cultural Context, Volume 8, Issue 1, pp.1-12. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 908.232KB).

Rachel Hanisch

Graduate Student, Department of Epidemiology, University of Washington, Seattle, USA

Rachel recently graduated with a Ph.D. in Epidemiology from the School of Public Health at the University of Washington in Seattle, WA. Her dissertation work focused on the epidemiology of human papillomavirus (HPV) infection and cervical cancer among women from Senegal, West Africa. As part of her predoctoral studies, Rachel was able to conduct a project in Dakar, Senegal, where she evaluated dietary contributions of the hospital micro-garden for patients in the Infectious Disease Department at Fann Hospital. Prior to this, Rachel obtained a Masters in Public Health, and has worked as an epidemiologist in research areas including international health disparities, cancer screening and prevention, and infectious disease epidemiology and surveillance.

Dr. Papa Salif Sow

Director, Department of Infectious Diseases, University of Dakar, Dakar, Senegal

Dr. Sow is a Professor of Infectious Diseases at the University of Dakar in Senegal. He trained as a physician specialized in Infectious and Tropical Diseases. Since 1987, Dr. Sow has worked extensively in the field of Infectious Diseases in general and in HIV/AIDS, in particular in terms of patient care, teaching and research. In 2002, Professor Sow was nominated head of the Department of Infectious Diseases of the University of Dakar. In 2004, as the Director of the Department of Infectious Diseases at Fann Hospital, Professor Sow identified a need to address challenges in obtaining proper nutrition among patients who were admitted to his hospital. He undertook an initiative to develop a garden on hospital grounds in order to supplement the diet of hospitalized patients. The micro-garden program has since expanded and now serves several other departments on the Fann Hospital grounds.

Dr. Zeina Makhoul

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Cancer Prevention Program, University of Arizona, Seattle, USA

Zeina is currently working with SPOON Foundation as a Nutrition Assessment Specialist to design and implement nutrition and feeding assessment tools in orphanages in several developing countries. Zeina is a registered Dietitian and has a Ph.D. in Nutritional Sciences from the University of Arizona with a focus on international nutrition. Her doctoral work included studies on iron deficiency and night blindness in Nepalese pregnant women and birth outcomes. She completed a four-year postdoctoral training at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, WA, where she led several research studies investigating the role of nutrition in HIV-associated malignancies in Uganda. She also designed and implemented a nutritional assessment system at the pediatric oncology ward at the Uganda Cancer Institute. She has years of experience teaching nutrition at the college level. Zeina’s interests include child and maternal nutrition, nutritional assessment and rehabilitation, nutrition education, and improving nutrition programs through operations and implementation research.

Jared Tharp

Returned Volunteer, University of Dakar, Dakar, Senegal

Jared is a returned Peace Corps volunteer who worked as an urban agriculturist in Dakar, Senegal. He and three local assistants worked in the garden of the Fann Hospital Infectious Disease Department to assist in providing food for hospitalized patients. He also worked in the garden for the psychiatric ward of the hospital, which not only produced food for patients, but also provided patients with therapeutic activity. In addition to these activities, Jared also provided instruction in micro-garden techniques for families in Dakar whose households were afflicted with HIV/AIDS and who wished to create a micro-garden for household nutritional and economic sustainability. He is currently employed with the United States Department of State in San Francisco, California.

Dr. Stephen Hawes

Associate Professor, Department of Epidemiology, University of Washington, Seattle, USA

Dr. Hawes is an Associate Professor of Epidemiology at the University of Washington School of Public Health in Seattle, WA, and has advanced degrees in both Biostatistics and Epidemiology. Dr. Hawes’s primary interests are in human papillomavirus (HPV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). His current research is conducted in Seattle and Senegal, West Africa, and concerns the role of HIV-1, HIV-2, HPV and other sexually transmitted infections in the natural history of cervical neoplasia and cancer, as well as the study of biomarkers for various cancers. He has been involved in collaborative epidemiologic studies at the Fann Hospital in Dakar, Senegal, since 1994.