The discussions during the seminar were useful both in terms of improving the finalization of the study report and in developing further HIV/AIDS programming concepts in the forest and environment sectors.
Mr Aubrey Harris, Sub-Regional FAO Representative, opened the meeting. He welcomed the participants and stressed the importance of AIDS and its impact on miombo woodlands in view of its high prevalence in the region. He outlined the objectives of the meeting, which were to report on the methodology and results of the case studies in Malawi and Mozambique, draw lessons and discuss the way forward.
The morning session was chaired by Mr Yekeye, Executive Director of the National AIDS Council of Zimbabwe. Mr Yekeye made a presentation on the situation of AIDS and on the Zimbabwe National AIDS Council. The Council was established by an Act of Parliament and is overseen by a multi-sectoral board. In Zimbabwe AIDS workplace programmes are currently developed for large public employers and provision is also made for the large private sector companies. Depending on the statistics the prevalence of AIDS in Zimbabwe varies from 25 to 33 per cent but it is safe to say that it is very high. Since the infected persons are very mobile in the region, it is important to note that initiatives are needed not only at the national but also at the regional level.
Ms Christine Holding Anyonge then made a presentation on HIV/AIDS food security and rural development programmes at FAO, in general, and within the Forestry Department in particular. Ms Holding Anyonge began by briefly describing some of the key interfaces between the forest sector and HIV/AIDS followed by descriptions of the types of response that FAO is developing with national forest departments and forest extension providers. One of the fundamental themes is to focus activities on sustaining the role of trees, woodlands and forests in providing an economic and social safety net when the opportunities to farm are limited and cash is scarce. Forest sector responses also offer the potential to save time and labour of affected households. A close analysis of prevailing agroforestry and production systems in areas that are strongly affected by HIV/AIDS reveals several labour efficient agroforestry alternatives that would maintain the capital of the soil and production for the land during a generation of low labour availability. As actions within the forest and environment sector should start with capacity building of local institutions, both formal and informal, FAO is taking steps to integrate consideration of HIV/AIDS into its forest education strategy and its support to participatory curriculum development. Following the presentation, it was suggested that FAO/Forestry prepare a regional approach to AIDS and its influence on the forest sector.
The introduction to FAO/Forestry’s current activities with regard to HIV/AIDS programming was followed by the presentation of the study methodologies by Mr Marc Barany (consultant). Units of analysis for which the methods were designed to explore include communities, households and medicinal plant species. The former were selected through the use of a matrix combining woodland tenure and HIV prevalence. Woodland transects and mapping exercises carried out by both community woodland management and focus groups were designed to measure changes in woodland cover, use and policies (informal and formal) and comparison between communities of varying HIV prevalence and tenure. At the household level, surveys were conducted to measure household use of miombo woodlands and changes resulting from deaths and illness of prime-age adults. A non-probability quota sample was drawn as an efficient means of sampling potentially AIDS-affected households in sufficient numbers. Indicators of these proxy households included morbidity and mortality of prime-age adults, as well as demographic loading and household composition. A question was raised regarding the validity of these sampling methods and indicators and the rationale for using this methodology was explained2. Through these methods it is not possible at present to separate mortality caused only by HIV/AIDS, but given the HIV prevalence it is possible to infer that high mortality is caused in good part by the effect of HIV. Another limitation to the study involved the sample sizes, as statistical value of the results is constrained. Nonetheless the methodologies were deemed sufficient for the exploratory nature of the study, justifying development of strategic themes, signalling the relevancy of continued investments in research, and providing a model for further needs assessment of these populations appropriate to the field working environment of forestry institutions. The third unit of analysis – medicinal plant species – involved collecting data on indicators of scarcity and inventory changes in populations of species used in treating HIV/AIDS-related illnesses from surveys of traditional healers.
Consultants Dr Sitoe and Dr Kayambanzinthu then made presentations on the Mozambique and Malawi studies, respectively. Methodologies varied amongst the two country studies; however, some noteworthy patterns emerged with regard to the role of forest resources in affected household responses. Commercial woodland activities appeared to help as a buffer against the immediate impacts of health expenses and productivity losses. Firewood in particular is an important source of revenue and can be used by many households as a safety net, as are other commercial products like carpentry and honey production, for instance.
Except for medicinal plants, subsistence woodland activities in general are not considered important for coping with the immediate impact of illness. This is because illness is unlike other shocks where the entire community is affected (e.g. drought) in that other safety nets are available (i.e. social). Regardless of previous levels of household dependence on woodland activities, the erosion of household assets and increased vulnerability resulting from prolonged illness and eventual death of prime-age household members leads to increased dependence on both subsistence and commercial woodland activities for livelihood and coping strategies.
Medicinal plants are an important element of the studies. They show that they play an important role, being used by herbalists and healers. Their inventories seem to diminish in association with the prevalence of HIV and AIDS; there is also a large demand by outside markets. In Malawi, in particular, demand for traditional medicine and reliance on commercial woodland activities resulting from livelihood changes because of HIV/AIDS appear to be having an impact on decreasing woodland inventories of medicinal plants used in treating HIV/AIDS-related illnesses. Areas with higher HIV prevalence rates are also experiencing more rapid declines in the quality of woodlands and decreasing availability of forest products than areas with lower prevalence. While this association cannot be explained as a cause and effect, nonetheless this deterioration in woodlands is aggravating the labour constraints of affected households and threatening rural coping strategies.
While some conclusions could be regionalized, many were quite site specific. In the case of Mozambique, for example, it was found that the death of a male prime-age adult was more disruptive to a household than the death of a prime-age female. It was stated that this is a very specific patrilineal situation quite different from other cases in Malawi or elsewhere, where the household is severely disrupted by the death of the female head of the household. It was also difficult to single out concrete and distinct communities because in a typical situation there is much interaction outside the community and others come into the community. This is also often observed in relationship with the management and use of the miombo resource.
Presentation of the studies was followed by a brief discussion of some possible strategy ideas to maintain the availability and accessibility of miombo woodlands as a safety net. The issue of expanding areas under plantations of exotics and local species was unanimously supported as woodlots and block plantations around forest reserves. An important discussion occurred around the co-management of forests by communities with the forest authorities. While examples show that results may vary, for lack of management alternatives, this approach is perceived as promising in many instances. However, a compendium of the principles that should be followed to establish co-management would be needed, while models specific to the social, economical and ecological situations should be developed. It was also suggested that FAO could undertake a review of existing documentation of medicinal plants in the region and prepare a document to inform stakeholders on the issue. Potential collaborators were identified, such as the LINKs programme, as its focus involves the documentation of indigenous knowledge as it relates to use of miombo woodlands among other ecosystems in the region.
The afternoon session was chaired by Dr Kowero, CIFOR Regional Coordinator for Southern Africa. The first presentation of the afternoon session was made by Dr Davison Gumbo on behalf of WWF Southern Africa. WWF proposed to use its present ecological programme and, if funds are available, to include HIV/AIDS elements to improve its efficiency. It was also stated that while there is much international sensitization and funds available for HIV/AIDS, national governments must also be convinced to invest more in the prevention and care of HIV/AIDS. Dr Gumbo also stressed that efforts must concentrate on the local level – districts and lower – because at these levels the capacity to undertake such work is low. Training must also be part of the resources transferred to augment the local capacity. On the issue of training it was mentioned that the present situation is a disaster for Africa, which is losing many of its best foresters. It is thus important that at regional and national levels training programmes take into consideration the need to train local forest extension experts, technical and engineering staff in order to supply the nations with much needed specialists who are becoming rarer due to diseases and death. Forestry training curricula will need to include social aspects with HIV/AIDS components or alternatively must be accessible by forestry students in other faculties.
The second presentation of the afternoon was made by Dr Paul Thangata, ICRAF Regional Office for Southern Africa, Harare. On the question of whether agroforestry technologies are less labour intensive, it was stated that no formal research has yet been conducted, but that green manure production seems to be a good option for households with limited manpower. Also, it was noted that when considering the contribution of agroforestry to the AIDS-stricken communities, it must be remembered that interventions are not only about planting trees but also about maintaining already existing traditional agroforestry systems that are dependent on indigenous knowledge transferred through generations. Finally, even if it is not yet practised in Africa, the use of funds coming from sources paying for carbon sinks could support plantations, woodlots and maintenance of forests in the future – indirectly supporting forest-based coping strategies in HIV/AIDS impacted regions.
Following the presentations, a summarization of the main themes originating from the day’s discussions was made by Mr Michel Laverdiere, Forestry Conservation Officer, FAO, Harare. Key points included:
1. Due to the high human mobility within and outside countries, there is a need to develop a regional dimension to any programme to assist in HIV/AIDS in forestry.
2. Any initiative on HIV/AIDS in forestry must be inter-sectoral, not isolated.
3. Forests are very important as a source of medicinal plants and this type of information should be compiled and made available at national and local levels.
4. Commercial forest products (e.g. honey, fuelwood, etc.) are very important as they can play a role as safety nets and facilitate coping mechanisms by AIDS-affected households.
5. Many findings on AIDS vs. miombo by the present studies are sub-national or site specific. The extrapolation of the conclusions and use of the methodology should take this into account.
6. In forest/tree poor areas, the establishment of forest plantations and woodlots as buffers around forest reserves should be encouraged
7. Co-management of forests with and by communities is a promising approach but that must be adapted to the specific target social groups.
8. Partner organizations like WWF, ICRAF, IUCN and many others are encouraged to include HIV/AIDS issues in their ongoing programmes in miombo conservation. Extra funds will be necessary and this will require new original approaches such as carbon crediting.
9. Training is essential, especially at the farmer and district levels, but also for young forest engineers and the whole technician cadre. It must be well planned and increased in order to mitigate the long-term nefarious effects of the disappearance of accumulated knowledge in forestry. Women should benefit from a more equitable share of capacity building resources.
To close the day’s events, a final session was held to give participants the opportunity to identify ways in which FAO could support regional forest departments in their efforts to manage forest resources and respond to HIV/AIDS. As strategies in response to HIV/AIDS should not replace, but compliment, current strategic planning, the recommended interventions and policy initiatives that follow draw from existing forestry options within the three main thematic groups – management of natural woodland resources, farm forestry and forest product markets. These strategies are operational at three levels – national (policy), agency and local. Strategies recommended by the national and regional representatives of organizations present at the meeting included:
1. Local level (village institutions)
a. Institution building and alleviation of constraints faced by community civic groups will improve community management of forest resources.
b. Increasing capacity in leadership, organization, technical skills and gender considerations.
c. Establishing official entry points within communities to facilitate their collaboration and mobilization.
d. Initiating more market development processes.
e. Documentation and use of indigenous knowledge
f. Participatory planning is recommended as the best approach to gain results in preparing and implementing community forest management plans
g. Establishing management plans for medicinal plants with and by the communities.
2. Agencies (government departments, technical training establishments, etc.)
a. Adapting education institutions to the needs of local communities and fostering progressive approaches to education in the context of HIV/AIDS.
b. Developing market structures to facilitate market access of communities and to commercialize their forest products.
c. Coordination with the private sector, especially large forestry companies that have already developed strategies to cope with AIDS for their employees.
d. Facilitating coordination among institutions through the National AIDS Councils.
3. National (policy)
a. Comprehensively assessing how the HIV/AIDS epidemic affects the forestry sector and the existing capacities to respond.
b. Decentralization must be accelerated with government support of policy and coordination.
c. Fostering partnerships that are needed to access the available financial resources.
d. Determining how development of approaches and strategies can be implemented at regional level.
At all levels, these strategies may be implemented within the context of forest-based needs of HIV/AIDS-affected households and communities.
The studies conducted in Mozambique and Malawi revealed that indeed direct linkages exist between the HIV/AIDS epidemic and miombo woodlands, particularly with respect to how affected households and communities adapt their livelihood strategies to cope with the immediate and longer-term socio-economic impacts. Additionally, the study revealed that such relationships extend beyond households and communities, affecting and being affected by the ecological and political landscapes of the miombo woodland ecoregion. At the same time, these relationships are shaped by complex realities that are as diverse as the cultures, economies and geographies of the region. While some general policies can be integrated into planning efforts, the types of technical strategies, their targeting and the timing of their implementation will vary across relatively small distances. This will require a broad understanding of the nexus between HIV/AIDS and forestry, and will need to be accompanied by capacities for dovetailing overlapping concerns into local needs assessments.
While the framework and methodologies developed in the study offer a model for identifying the entry points for integrated HIV/AIDS and forest programming, development of the sector’s response will ultimately require an ongoing process to improve and build on existing forestry planning and extension models. Training and education are at the centre of such an effort. To maintain the dialogue, and expand participation, it was decided to establish an on-line format for communication of experiences, lessons learned and needs among practitioners targeting HIV/AIDS populations, and those forestry/natural resource entities working in heavily impacted regions3. Additionally, it was suggested that the issue be revisited in the near future, by holding a regional meeting specifically on the subject of HIV/AIDS and forest education. In conclusion, the consultative group felt that the focus of efforts should be on the urgency of addressing problems at grassroots levels and within agencies and service providers that work in communities, and not to generate another group of professionals who only circulate information amongst themselves. It is the intention of the participants that these proceedings offer a useful means towards this end.
2 Primarily the lack of knowledge of HIV status, the bias associated with households knowing HIV status by having accessed testing, and logistical constraints limiting resources available for larger sample sizes determined the need for methods to rapidly identify and recruit proxy households. Further studies with statistical analysis should be conducted to determine the validity and reliability of these methods as they are suited to the realities of forest extensionists and are well suited in this application.
3 A forum has since been developed and is available at www.fao.org/forestry/site/21327/en