A Grass Root Fund to fight AIDS

Von Cecilia Chulu Muyinda / COMUNDO

Zambia is one of the countries in the sub-Saharan Africa that has continued to experience the effects that the HIV/AIDS pandemic has brought to mankind. A country with a population of thirteen million people, the prevalence rate stands at 17 % in adults (15 to 45 years of age). However, despite the many efforts by many stakeholders in terms of information dissemination, sensitization and awareness creation, the pandemic has continued to pose many challenges to the Zambian socio-economic sector.


Many organizations ranging from the civil society organizations, Non/Governmental, and Faith Based Organizations have endeavored to fight the scourge with different approaches or rather technique. The HIV/AIDS Fund under the Bethlehem Mission Immensee (BMI) is one such type of the organization that has contributed towards the prevention and care of the affected and infected persons.

The BMI HIV/AIDS Fund usually classified as “an exception” was the result of an emanation of a particular situation.  A documentary was done at Our Lady’s Hospice one of the biggest Hospices in Zambia for the terminally ill and palliative care services for HIV/AIDS related cases. The documentary attracted many people in Switzerland who started forwarding donations to contribute to the same cause. These donations resulted in the creation of the HIV/AIDS Fund. A fund limited in time until the donations were used according to donors’ intentions

The activities which were supported through the fund were prevention and care and projects dealing with social and economic consequences of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. The Fund was introduced in 2006 and the total number of projects supported is over thirty. The Fund was officially closed in 2013.

Sustainability is key

The HIV/AIDS Fund was unique in the sense that it mainly considered local or grass root organizations which are very active within their communities but had difficulties to compete for funds with well-established organizations. The HIV/AIDS Fund had established a “Board” which came up with criteria for funding which stimulates the following; the organization implementing the project can be an institution of ecclesiastical and non-ecclesiastical character, a NGO or communities. A key criterion in the screening of a project is sustainability. The project should benefit as many people as possible, the organization supported should work towards networking with related organizations. In 2009 a new criterion for funding was introduced. All projects had to be an Income Generating Activity (IGA) aiming at increasing the financial and institutional sustainability. The board for the HIV/AIDS Fund was responsible for screening and selection of the projects.

A HIV/AIDS Fund team, consisting of 3 persons was responsible to monitor the implementation of the selected projects. For that reason it had put in place measures to sustain the projects funded and to ensure efficiency and effectiveness in terms of implementing the projects from the funded partner organizations. Before a potential project was funded, a baseline assessment was conducted. This provided detailed information about the project which assists both the donor and the implementers on the clear objectives of the project and its attainment. Crucial for the success of the IGA projects was very close monitoring of the spending at project sites and technical support as well as capacity building in the field of the accounting and marketing. Projects that did not follow the agreed basic accounting standards were closed.

Survival skills and employment

Two successful examples of organizations that have received funding and technical support are Kanyama Savings and Credit Union (KASU) and Kamanga Tithandizane Open Community School.

Kanyama Savings and Credit Union is a non-partisan Community Based Organization (CBO) whose services are to supplement efforts in poverty and HIV/AIDS reduction among its members within and outside Kanyama (township in Lusaka). The majority of members of KASU, who benefit from the activities of the organization, are widows and most of them are living positive. KASU offers educational program for orphans and vulnerable children (OVCs and literacy, HIV/AIDS sensitization through Home Based Care and nutritional support, entrepreneurship trainings, outreach programs and provide psychological support). It is registered under the Registrar of Companies under the Ministry of Community Development. It received the total amount of ZMK 120,634 (ca. 22’000 CHF) from the HIV/AIDS Fund to start a “sausage making business”.  KASU’s aim was to use the money made thought the sales of the sausages to sustain itself in terms of running costs and to support some of the activities. So far the income generated from the IGA has provided assistance for some children towards their education which is a good investment for the future. Other IGAs were reactivated with some small investments. Further the existing revolving fund of the support group was increased. The IGA has also created jobs for some of the members who are now sales agent and receive a 10% commission from every sale made. This corresponded in striving to improve the socio-economic deterioration that the HIV/AIDS has imposed on the disadvantaged people.

The sausage making project has benefited 100 direct beneficiaries and more than 200 indirect beneficiaries. The direct beneficiaries are the women who are taking part in the activities of the organization, including the production and sale of sausages and also orphaned children who are being sponsored with school requirements such as books, bags and school fees for those in junior secondary. The indirect beneficiaries have been provided with the services within the community, they are able to have a balanced meal once in a while as they can afford to buy the local product (sausage) at an affordable price.

During the final evaluation, the HIV/AIDS Fund team had the chance of meeting the beneficiaries during one to one interviews and they had this to say:

“Despite being HIV/AIDS positive, the project is keeping me busy. I have acquired some survival skills which are a life tool and it helps me raise money to take my children to school.” (Susen Chilekwa)

“I have learnt a lot concerning HIV/AIDS, knitting and making sausages. It is a unique project, it has provided some employment which I never thought of, the skills learnt is not only for now but for the future, two of my children have benefited for education support in terms of books and bags”. (Veronica Banda)

Support of orphans and vulnerable children

Kamanga Tithandizane Open Community School is another organization that had received funds from the BMI HIV/AIDS Fund. The School was established early 1999 and is registered by the Registrar of Societies and the Ministry of Education. The school provides primary education (grades 1 to 7) to the vulnerable and orphaned children with the first priority being given to the girl child. The children at this school are mostly single or double orphans. The same state of affairs has been brought about by the HIV/AIDS pandemic and most of these children are being kept by their grandparents who can’t afford to pay the fees demanded by the government schools and private schools respectively. The teachers at the school are voluntary teachers. Some of the teachers are fully trained teachers but have offered to volunteer and to help shape the lives of the future generation. The school has the total number of 524 pupils with the breakdown of 224 boys and 300 girls. The total number of teachers is, inclusive the Coordinator and the Head Teacher, 3 males and 5 females.

The school has received funds to start an IGA in hammer milling. The total amount received was ZMK 126,500 (ca 24’000 CHF). With this money a hammer mill house was build and the hammer mill purchased. The objective of the income generating activity is to raise money to purchase school requisites such as chalk, text books and exercise books for extreme vulnerable pupils. The income generated will also be used to cushion the allowances for volunteers which are very low at the moment, thus motivating them. This will help on the part of volunteer retention which has been the biggest challenge of the school. The project is on its way to benefit 524 direct beneficiaries and more than 54,000 persons living in Kamanga compound who will benefit from the grinding services offered by the community school as indirect beneficiaries. So far, the project is beneficial to the school in terms of buying small items such as chalk, pencils and exercise books.

“This is the first project the school has embarked on since its inception on 2.02.99. Fourteen years down the line, as a school Coordinator, we are optimistic that the project will succeed and will guide it jealously”. (John Saini Phiri, school coordinator)

“Many thanks to the donors, the investment given to us will go a long way, we are hopeful that the money raised will assist in the purchase of teaching and learning materials to make this school a place to be, ” (Moses Kaumba, teacher).

“Many thanks to BMI, the support given to us will improve our learning here at the community school.” (Simon Mwale, pupil)

Both organizations faced a lot of challenges. The production of sausages needs electricity; needless to say that a power cut can destroy a full production. KASU had to improvise and find solutions like working in night shifts when power was not likely to go. Prices for the construction of the hammer mill house went up. Voluntary work, improving negotiation skills and commitment made it possible nevertheless.

In summary, a total of 38 projects were supported by the BMI HIV/AIDS Fund. 19 of those were IGAs aiming at the financial sustainability of the organizations. In 8 projects the funds were used to organize workshops to raise awareness on HIV/AIDS and/or to learn life skills. In 2 projects bikes were purchased to support and motivate care givers. A rural health center and a hospice used the funds to buy live saving medicaments they did not receive from the government. One radio program about HIV/AIDS was produced and successfully transmited several weeks. In one project 10 houses were built to replace the huts of widows and OVCs. And 4 projects received support to cover their running costs for a certain time.

Altogether close to 700’000 CHF were spent, benefiting over 7’000 persons directly. The number of direct beneficiaries will further increase with the continuous support that some of the organization receive through their in some cases recently build up IGAs.

It takes time

The lessons learned from the IGA projects were that it takes time to start a business and even more time until it makes profit. The dedication of the project managers to learn new skills and to invest time in a new activity (IGA) are crucial, and human resource changes are therefore a high risk for the success of an IGA. In all IGA projects it was necessary to build up capacity in the field of accounting and reporting. Some of this will help the organizations also to aply for further funding from other donors, making them not only through the IGA more sustainable, but also thought the organizational development.

* Cecilia Chulu Muyinda is assistant to the Country Coordinator, BMI Zambia and was working for the HIV/AIDS Fund to 50% as a Monitoring and Evaluation Officer. Besides studying Education and being a mother of 2, she is also the Head Teacher of the Kamanga Tithandizane Open Community School, assuring that the community school continues having its doors open and continues supporting the OVCs of Kamanga (township in Lusaka).