Sawa Pius | December 12, 2011
For many years, Roselyne Rajwero lived happily with her family. But in 2003, she lost her husband due to an AIDS-related ailment. She did not know her own HIV status. After her husband’s death, she decided to go for testing. She was found to be HIV positive. The hospital advised her to start taking antiretroviral medication, or ARVs.
Mrs. Rajwero completely lost hope. Her life became even worse when people in her community learned that she was HIV positive. She explains, “Life was never the same. I was stigmatized soon after the moment I tested HIV positive.” Mrs. Rajwero is a small-scale farmer in Samia district, near the Kenya-Uganda border.
Mrs. Rajwero thought she was the only person in her community taking ARVs. But one day she met some of her neighbours collecting their drugs at the hospital. When she realised her neighbours were facing similar challenges, she decided to form a group. Although she found it difficult to approach the neighbours, one day she found the courage. They called themselves the Vumilia Support Group. Vumilia is a Swahili word meaning “be patient.”
As time passed, the group grew in number to 27. They started generating income through different activities. One of their first activities was piece-work for other farmers. They earned money from this farm work, but it took a lot of their energy.
As time went by, the group had saved enough money to start a poultry project. Mrs. Rajwero says, “We saw that our energies were reducing, so, in 2007, we started the poultry project and decided to drop the idea of working in people’s farm[s] and concentrate on poultry.”
The members rear chickens collectively, in one area. Each member brings feed for the chickens. Exotic, or hybrid, chickens are fed kale and maize. Local chickens are fed using a free-range system. Some eggs are shared among members for eating at home, and some are sold for cash.
The group’s business strategy is to sell their chickens every December. The prices are very high then, as it is the festive season. Part of the money from the chickens is shared among the members, to buy items for Christmas.
The Vumilia Support Group also goes to other villages. They encourage women to go for HIV testing so that, if they are HIV positive, they can start drugs in good time. She adds that the group has remained at 27. When one member dies, a new one is brought on board.
Mrs. Rajwero says that despite making strides in their quality of life, group members still face some challenges. It is not easy to maintain a good diet for the whole family, while maintaining the ARV schedule and finding time to earn money. She adds, “When my children finish primary education, they stay at home because I don’t have money to send them to secondary school.”