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:
national policies or plans
(for details on this please see the SEAGA Macro Level Handbook)
Social and cultural norms
Environmental or seasonal changes
Legislation and customary law
HIV/AIDS and other chronic illnesses
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.
Go to toolbox: Village resource map and matrix and stakeholder analysis.
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:
How do recent policies and legislation influence the community and the different socio-economic groups within it? (This also applies to different types of households and different members within households) Have there been any recent changes that may affect the livelihoods of rural women, men or youth? If so, how have they been affected?
How do national policies provide an enabling environment for these concerns?
How do national policies contribute to a constraining environment for these concerns? For households within the community? Members within households?
How do institutions collaborate with communities? How do they identify and prioritise the particular needs of different members in different households?
How do communities influence organisations in terms of service provision, requests for assistance? (NGOs, extension services) Are there groups in the community who have more access to them than others? If so, who are they? Women? Men? Well-off? Younger? People working in a specific sector?
How do extension workers and other service providers link with policy-makers? Can they influence policy?
How do households manage their resources? How are work (and time-use) and responsibilities divided between women and men, young and old, by crop, livestock type, and main source of income?
It is important to be aware of clients sex, age, religion, culture, (think of different members within households and between households across socioeconomic groups). Also think about seasonal variation in their activities.
What methods do you use to find out information about your client group?
How can you involve them in the design and planning of your programmes?
What sorts of grassroots organisations or co-operatives/farmer groups or networks exist?
Think about the impacts (positive and negative) your service has on other activities, other groups and institutions operating in your technical and geographical area.
Go to toolbox: Village resource map, pair-wise ranking, problem analysis chart, stakeholder analysis.
HIV/AIDS presents an overwhelming challenge to rural households and extension services in affected areas for several reasons:
The disease is fatal and there is no cure
Stigma makes it more difficult to prevent infection as well as more difficult to assist affected households
The majority of the infected are among the most productive and economically active members of the community
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):
Loss of adult on-farm and off-farm labour, leading to a decline in productivity
Decline in household income and loss of assets, savings and/or remittances
Increase in household expenditure (medical treatment, transport etc)
Increase in the number of dependants relying on a smaller number of productive family members
Loss of indigenous farming methods, inter-generational knowledge and specialised skills, practices and customs.
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 substitutability
between existing labour-intensive and less labour-demanding crops
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:
Classify farming systems and households in terms of potential vulnerability to increased illness and death
Explore labour-economising crop varieties and how these could be grown by widows, widowers or youth
Explore labour-economising cultivation practices, e.g. inter-cropping, and labour-saving cultivation technologies, e.g. hand tillers, draught animals, and assess their appropriateness for women, men, elderly and youth - particularly people with poor health
Encourage labour exchanges between households
Explore ways of reducing womens work burden (for example labour-saving methods of food preparation, water and/or fuel collection)
Explore ways of reducing post-harvest losses
Introduce and improve poultry and small livestock appropriate to local culture to improve diets
Use paddocks for larger stock as a way of economising on labour used in herding
Ensure that orphaned children receive adequate education in local farming knowledge and techniques
Be informed and share knowledge on land tenure arrangements to protect the user and the inheritance rights of widows and orphaned children
Consider opportunities for income generation activities or formation of savings or credit groups that could support HIV/AIDS affected households
Explore linkages with organisations working with home-based care, support to HIV/AIDS affected households and individuals and/or anti-retroviral drugs