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6. Mainstreaming HIV/AIDS messages into agricultural extension

The ultimate goal of this study is to lead into mainstreaming HIV/AIDS messages into agricultural extension in Uganda. In this study attempts were made to investigate the current sources of people's messages/information on HIV/AIDS and, preferred sources. Given the critical role to be played by extension workers, this study analyzed the basic profiles of the extension staff in the four districts, their current roles and how they can be utilized to contribute towards HIV/AIDS prevention and control, and mitigation of the impact.

Information sources and preference

Majority of the respondents (87.2%; n = 272) indicated that they were getting/receiving information and messages on HIV/AIDS. Of these, 81.8% noted that they had received the information in the last 3 months preceding this study.

What is clear in this study is that extension workers emerged among the least sources of HIV/AIDS information (5.4%). The findings suggest that extension workers can play a very important role if they used the radio to disseminate HIV/AID messages. In all the 4 districts visited, there are FM Radio Stations, which can be utilised by the extension workers in the fight against HIV/AIDS, and mitigation of the impact. See Table 6 regarding the available services of information.

HIV/AIDS awareness-raising by TASO in Uganda, ©FAO

Table 6: Available sources of information by basic activity


Basic activity

Average %

Crop farming %

Fishing %

Livestock farming %











Local officials





Extension workers










Health workers





NGO staff




















Whereas extension workers were least reported as the source of information in the fishing communities, health workers as source of HIV/AIDS information were most reported by the fishing folk. The nature of settlements in fishing communities (i.e., concentrated/urban-like) makes it easier to be targeted in-group situations.

Most respondents preferred radio and health workers as their source of HIV information; 41.5% and 40.3% respectively. A tenth (10.5%) preferred extension workers as their source of HIV/AIDS information. When the information source preference was cross tabulated with basic activity of the respondents, there were slight variations in preferences. The radio was generally the most preferred source of information, but with the level of preference much higher among the livestock farmers, while health workers were more preferred among the fishing folk and crop farmers.

Basically, respondents preferred given sources of information due to the associated degree of accessibility or convenience, clarity, costs involved and availability. Thus, using extension staff to disseminate HIV/AIDS messages, the above factors will have to be put into account.

In general, respondents irrespective of their basic activity preferred a source that was more accessible and convenient. In this regard, the radio was more convenient to livestock farmers than other categories. It was for instance, not uncommon, to meet herdsmen in Mbarara with small portable radios. Within the fishing and crop farming communities, health workers were convenient in the sense that most of the day community members involved in fishing tend to be at home.

In almost all cases, the information that respondents had received was largely concerning control and prevention of HIV/AIDS. However, information dissemination needs to be appropriately intensified so as to result into behavioural change. On the other hand, the number of people who had received information on the relationship between the AIDS epidemic and agricultural production was much less. Only 28.4% of the respondents indicated that had at one time received HIV/AIDS information in relation to agriculture such as how to increase agricultural production in the face of labour depletion. But even then, the 28.4% percent were not specific regarding the information they had received in relation to HIV/AIDS. Just only 3.5% of the respondents indicated that they had got information on orphan and widow property rights such that in cases the relatives are to grab the household property, then the victims would seek justice.

From interviews with household members and key informants at various levels, pertinent information areas in this era of HIV/AIDS emerged. These included, but not limited to:

Thus, as much as information on how to prevent/control the spread of HIV/AIDS is necessary, people require information on the above areas, which will enable them increase their agricultural or fishing production.

Extension staff

Extension staff can play a vital role in the fight and mitigation of HIV/AIDS impact as they interact with the majority of the population; crop farmers, livestock keepers and the fishing folk. Further, by providing correct information and making referrals to resource centres, extension staff can contribute in the mitigation of HIV/AIDS impact on agriculture. However, the number of extension workers countrywide is not sufficient to cover all the areas. Figures obtained at MAAIF, indicate that by February 2001, there were 2701[1] field staff, covering fisheries, crop sector and livestock.

In this study, a total of 21 extension workers (15 males and 6 females) were reached and interviewed, some of who joined the research team during data collection. 18 of 21 extension workers were married. In most cases, most of the staff had worked or served in their respective positions between 5-10 years in one place. This would suggest that such staff are more acquainted with the cultural norms of the areas, and hence would appropriately disseminate HIV messages without antagonizing the locals.

With decentralisation, districts are mandated to recruit extension staff, while the Central Government (represented by MAAIF) is in-charge of policy setting and ensuring that quality and standards are maintained.

Like all other community members, extension staff met in this study had been affected by the AIDS epidemic. All the extension workers met had either lost a relative, a family member or a friend. What was, however, common with all extension workers met in this study was the recognition that HIV/AIDS had unleashed tremendous impact on agricultural production and fishing. Not only HIV/AIDS had impacted on agricultural production and fishing, but had also affected the performance of extension workers. An extension worker in Mbarara succinctly summarised the impact of HIV/AIDS on their performance:

If you are to count the number of days one has not worked because of the burials and funerals resulting from HIV/AIDS, you will find that a lot has been lost. When you work in an area for a long time you make friends, and people come to know you so that whenever a person falls sick, you have to check on her or him as any other village-mate, and when he or she dies you have to attend the burial. All these consume much of one's time.

Apart from losing community members with whom the extension workers have interacted with, they also lose relatives all nurse their relatives as one extension worker in Lira put it:

When my young brother went down, I spent much of my time attending to him. This did not only cost me a lot of time, but also exhausted my finances as there was nobody else to take care of him.

The above findings indicate that the extension workers also feel the impact of HIV/AIDS. In a way this can be translated into an opportunity in the mainstreaming of HIV/AIDS into agricultural extension, for the extension workers had also had personal experiences with HIV/AIDS.

In all the four districts covered by the study, all the extension workers met reported that they were not dealing with HIV/AIDS issues in their work. In most cases they perceived HIV/AIDS an issue to be dealt with by staff in the health sector. Further investigation revealed that the extension workers are not equipped with skills and knowledge to deal with HIV/AIDS. Thus, issues of HIV/AIDS were being regarded as health matters, but not agricultural. One extension worker captured it all:

Although HIV/AIDS is a big problem, affecting agricultural production, we are not involved in any HIV/AIDS work...may be if we are trained and facilitated we can disseminate the information [Veterinary Officer in-charge of Birere Sub-county]

In mainstreaming HIV/AIDS into agricultural extension, attitude change and impressing it upon the extension staff that HIV/AIDS is not a health matter, but a development issue will be critical especially during the implementation of the PAM.

In light of PMA, aimed at eradicating poverty, the capacity of the lower governments is being built. The sub-county staff are being recruited and posted to the respective sub-counties to handle extension work. At the moment as Table 7 shows, extension workers handle issues relating to tenure systems, policy, technology options, financial and general extension work on advisory basis to the farmers, but not HIV/AIDS issues.

Table 7: Reported roles of Extension Staff

Sector Extension Staff


Animal Production Officers

Advise farmers on livestock production
Issue movement permits and handle animal related issues
Extension work at household level
Supervision and monitoring
Develop programmes and plans with the sub-county officials.
Control livestock movement and diseases
Guide the sub-county, county council on technical issues

Fisheries staff

Collect and compile data/fish records
Ensure proper sanitation in landing sites
Enforce legal action

Crop Farming

Offer back technical support to farmers
Supervision and administration of low cadre staff

All the above roles are ultimately meant to increase agricultural production. However, without integrating HIV/AIDS into extension work, the resulting achievements are likely to be eroded. There are already entry points for mainstreaming HIV/AIDS into agricultural extension. For instance, there are certain areas covering HIV/AIDS in the sector such as Family Life and Nutrition Programmes.

[1] Figures were not segregated by sex, district or region

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