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Organic Health Response

Author: Alex P Watson
Published Date: 20 April 2009

The OHR is a team comprised of organic farmers, health workers, teachers and international medical and graduate students committed to addressing the devastating impact of HIV/AIDS among the remote island communities of Lake Victoria in Western Kenya.

The Organic Health Response represents a vision cultivated by a group of organic farmers, health workers, and teachers from Mfangano Island and a team of international medical and graduate students. Together we have committed ourselves to addressing the devastating impact of HIV/AIDS among the remote island communities of Lake Victoria in Western Kenya. OHR-Mfangano is based out of a special Voluntary HIV Counseling and Testing facility called The Ekialo Kiona Center. This solar-powered resource center will encourage residents to know their HIV status by providing access to high-speed information technology as cover and incentive for participation in a unique “post-test club.” At the same time, this center will coordinate an island-wide network of “micro-clinics” to provide nutritional and psycho-social support for people living with HIV/AIDS. Through local and global partnerships, we are pioneering a series of initiatives to empower these rural villages to respond “organically”—as unified communities—to the overwhelming socio-economic, epidemiological, and ecological challenges they face.

We seek to augment health services by taking into consideration local understandings of disease, and integrating the power of biomedical science with the insight of indigenous knowledge. OHR-Mfangano is grounded in the recognition that the health of human beings is fundamentally connected to the strength of their communities and the sustainability of their environments. OHR-Mfangano embraces a philosophy that champions social justice and environmentalism not merely as political ideals but as the key components of a comprehensive strategy to improve and sustain human health.

Most importantly, OHR-Mfangano seeks to move beyond the rhetoric of “development” to put power into the hands of local people. Rather than requiring rural communities to develop according to agendas set by international organizations, OHR-Mfangano strives to equip Kenyans on Lake Victoria with cutting-edge resources to grow a locally-directed future. OHR-Mfangano is based on a unique collaborative system. Our programs are designed and implemented by Mfangano residents working in small teams with student volunteers from around the world, and supported by IT industries, international “Green” movements, and global health partners. As an inspired cooperative of grass-roots activists, we are working together to plant seeds of hope and cultivate local visions of wellbeing.