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1. Introduction

Miombo woodlands form an integral part of the livelihood and farming systems of southern Africa. Woodlands are held in a variety of tenurial regimes including state forests, either managed entirely by the Forestry Department or co-managed with local communities, and customary land forests. Households rely on woodlands to supplement their food supply, through collection of wild food plants, bushmeat, nuts, leaves and roots. Even in times of abundance such gathered wild foods are an essential source of nutrition. Woodlands are also a source of traditional medicines, income from the sale of non-wood forest products such as mushrooms, and wood products such as fuelwood and poles. In commercially managed miombo forests timber is still a valuable product providing goods for export and job opportunities for local communities.

From preliminary field visits in Malawi, in December 2002, it was observed that HIV/AIDS affected households appeared to be relying more and more on miombo resources as their capacity to farm the land declined. This was particularly the case of miombo woodlands on customary land interspersed amongst the cropping lands. Households not able to crop also relied more on gathering from the woodlands for their daily subsistence needs and for income. The woodlands provide income from mushrooms, poles and rodent bush meat. In addition, in many villages visited, households had no access to pharmaceutical drugs and relied entirely on the plants and trees occurring naturally on their farmlands and in the woodlands for the treatment of opportunistic infections. It would appear, therefore, that woodlands are an essential safety net for households affected by HIV/AIDs. However, these were only anecdotal observations.

Another aspect is the change and use of woodlands as a result of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. This is possible to document provided it is isolated within the study from other factors that may have caused the change and use of the woodlands since the HIV/AIDS scourge began. Studies in Dedza (Malawi) (Kayambazinthu and Locke, 2002) identified some of these influencing factors in the past decade. Has there been a change in the predominance of species gathered for medicines or foods? Traditionally different members of the household have differential access to the woodlands, e.g. men: bees and honey; women: fuelwood and thatch; children: fruits. Has there been any change in these natural divisions of this access? Are more families relying on the woodlands?

On the other hand, how is this differential use likely to impact on the sustainable use of the resource? Is the pandemic accelerating existing trends of overuse of woodlands, or is another dynamic of preferential harvesting of, for example, medicinal species, emerging? Which parts of the miombo woodland ecosystem and which species are essential in terms of medicine, foods and income for HIV/AIDS affected households? Which aspects of this knowledge can be successfully included in community natural resource management committees in the management of their woodland and the possible domestication of crucial medicinal species? Reliance on the resource may be crucial to these communities; how can local institutions and extension services support community natural resource management committees and other established village-level natural resource management mechanisms in managing the resource for sustainable production of medicines, food and income for HIV/AIDS affected households?

Although the references given above were observations from Malawi, there is a perceived general trend among communities in miombo woodlands of southern Africa, and countries like Mozambique may exhibit similar patterns of resource use and the type of interaction between community and miombo woodland resources. Thus, the present study has the purpose of obtaining an indication of the true extent of the interface of the HIV/AIDS pandemic and miombo woodlands in Mozambique. The results of the study will be used as background documentation for national and regional roundtable discussions on HIV/AIDS. Recognition of the role of woodlands in alleviating the pandemic (food security, income, medicines and shelter), tree domestication and recommendations for local action can be directly incorporated into existing communal woodland management programmes in Mozambique. The results and recommendations are therefore designed to be used at both policy and field programme levels.

The present document consists of four sections: the first section describes the miombo woodland resources and use pattern in Mozambique, the second presents the background information on the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Mozambique, the third describes the methodology used to carry out this study, and the fourth presents the results of the field work. The last section presents a discussion on the impacts of HIV/AIDS on woodlands and evaluates possible interventions to improve the contribution of the forestry sector to the mitigation of the effects of HIV/AIDS at household and community levels.

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