Empowering agricultural cooperatives to drive the HIV/AIDS response in rural areas

Article | 01 August 2008

Ethiopia - August 2008

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Ethiopia’s economy is largely generated by rural areas, where the largest proportion of the population is residing. Targeted workplace interventions in rural areas using contribute effectively to managing the national HIV epidemic.


The Ethiopian government with support from the ILO has empowered agricultural cooperatives in the Oromia region to encourage information sharing and behaviour change, as well as to provide voluntary counselling and testing (VCT), care and treatment to their workers. Major achievements are:

  • Coverage of 219 primary cooperatives in very remote areas;
  • Training of trainers, including: 2 Master trainers from Oromia Cooperative Commission; 22 Master trainers from district cooperative information offices; 3 Master trainers from zonal cooperative levels; 3 Master trainers from the Cooperative Agency; 290 peer educators;
  • VCT;
  • Use of antiretroviral drugs has started in cooperative societies: Baro, Lafto-Boshe and Guddanne-Dafino;
  • Care and support for orphans and vulnerable groups has started through Iddir (burial associations) in collaboration with cooperative societies;
  • Adoption of customary law by the Sombo Dedde cooperative society in the Horro district to fight against harmful traditional practices that aggravate the spread of HIV.

Lessons learned

  • Targeted cooperatives have institutionally allocated a proportion of their social fund to sustain workplace programmes, thus ensuring their sustainability;
  • Working with cooperatives has ensured that groups potentially socially excluded because of poor access to information and health services, low literacy levels and poverty were reached and empowered; and
  • Cooperative structures have been essential in reaching both local and migrant labourers through networks of peer educators and cooperative-based programmes.

Next steps

  • To scale up the intervention to other cooperatives and to other regions in Ethiopia; and
  • To assess the necessary conditions and conducive factors that can be replicated in other countries.

To investigate the potential of saving and credit cooperatives to provide credit schemes for vulnerable households, facilitate income-generation and extend social protection.

C. Lelissa, International Labour Organization, HIV/AIDS, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia