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There are many external factors that affect the opportunities of households and household members to efficiently manage the available resources. Such external factors may include:

Most of these factors are beyond the control of extension workers, but it is important to keep in mind that the livelihoods or rural women and men depend upon and are vulnerable to changes in the external environment. Extension should consequently take the development context into consideration when planning and communicating with farmers to improve their livelihoods.

Other external pressures on rural households include macro-level policies related to the management of natural resources such as land, water and the environment as well as decisions on the structure and work responsibilities of the extension services.

The challenge of HIV/AIDS is relatively new for extension services in many countries. Extension services can play an important role in HIV/AIDS prevention and in reducing the impact of the epidemic on rural households. This issue is therefore highlighted in this guide.

Extension agents are the front-line workers for rural households and can see first-hand the effects of macro-economic and other policies on farming systems and households’ management of resources. If possible, extension workers should share their knowledge with higher management and ultimately the government, advising on ‘safety nets’ required and which groups are particularly affected.

Development context: Guiding questions

For any issue, it is important to consider the development context and the connections, or linkages between the different levels including the macro level (policies), the intermediate level (organisations, services), and the field level (community/household issues, concerns, priorities, needs). For any issue (e.g. household food security, agricultural production), think about:

Macro level



Gender, households, livelihoods and HIV/AIDS

HIV/AIDS presents an overwhelming challenge to rural households and extension services in affected areas for several reasons:

Rural households, especially the poorest, are highly dependent upon human labour to earn an income or produce food. They are therefore also more vulnerable to impacts of the epidemic. Extension services and their employees are also vulnerable to the epidemic and its impacts in the form of sickness; absence and loss of staff; psychological strain on staff due to death of colleagues, family and clients; and new demands on extension services to meet the challenges brought about by the epidemic.

HIV/AIDS affects both women and men, but women and youth are often more vulnerable to the epidemic due to unequal power relations creating situations where it is difficult for them to control when, with whom and under what circumstances they have sexual relations. The relationships that exist between men and women can determine the spread of the disease, and must therefore be understood and addressed in order to fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Gender roles are changing due to the epidemic: women and girls in households with sick members will often spend relatively more time on care-related activities and less time is thus left for tending the land, looking after animals and other income-generating activities. Men and women are affected differently by the epidemic, and a particularly important issue is that of legal rights to land and property. Widows and orphans are often deprived of any right to inherit their home, agricultural land, tools and other belongings when the husband or parents die.

At the household level, the impact of HIV/AIDS on agriculture shows itself as follows (Topouzis and du Guerny, 1999):

Checklists for HIV/AIDS issues in subsistence agriculture

The checklists provided here below (adapted from Barnett, 1996) can help to assess vulnerability to the impact of HIV/AIDS and provide suggestions for possible mitigation responses to lessen its’ impact on a community/household. Because many of these issues are extremely sensitive, it is important to be careful when discussing them with community members and to avoid stigmatising people living with HIV/AIDS. Much of the information might be available from secondary sources (e.g. health units, HIV/AIDS networks, NGOs, etc.).

Assessing vulnerability to the impact of HIV/AIDS

Consider whether any of the following exist in the community/group/household:

· Dry climate
· Limited range of crops
· Marked labour peaks in the agricultural cycle
· Labour intensive processes
· Absence of labour exchange between households

· Limited substitutability between existing labour-intensive and less labour-demanding crops
· Food surpluses already low
· Limited opportunities for off-farm income
· Insecure land tenure

Checklist for potential responses to lessen the impact of HIV/AIDS

With the community/group/households’ men and women, consider whether any of the following suggestions might be feasible ways forward to help lessen the impact of HIV/AIDS:

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