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6. Conclusions and recommendations

The potential of forestry to contribute towards the mitigation of the effects and treatment of HIV/AIDS is high in rural communities. The information provided in the previous sections shows that local communities may get income from selling forest products and increase the food diet by incorporating wild foods (such as honey, mushrooms and fruits) rich in protein and vitamin. The use of medicinal plants for the treatment of HIV/AIDS-related diseases provides opportunities for local communities for own use or for sale in towns, thereby improving the quality of life of affected people and providing income for those in rural areas.

Income-generating forestry activities such as charcoal-making, carpentry, bamboo cutting and woodcarving are labour-intensive activities practised by male elements of the community. Affected people with manifest illness (widows and orphans) may have difficulties in using these as a coping strategy, but other potential activities that, although culturally practised by men, such as basket weaving and beekeeping, are labour-saving and can be done by women and children (widows and orphans) or people weakened by the illness. Within this context, the work promoted by the Extension Service is of great importance in terms of promotion of labour-saving technologies that can improve production efficiency and reduce vulnerability of affected households.

On the other hand, if cultivation of medicinal plants could be done, it would contribute positively not only to the treatment of HIV/AIDS-related diseases but also to the generation of income for rural communities, at the same time relieving pressure on the medicinal plant species in natural forests.

The coincident high deforestation rates in areas with a high HIV/AIDS prevalence index may be a deterrent to using forest products as a coping strategy in the long term, particularly because access to forest products is decreasing and there will be fewer opportunities for local communities to find alternatives for mitigation. In the medium term, the high accessibility of the areas with high HIV/AIDS prevalence may also represent market opportunities for forest products such as charcoal and bamboo. These observations suggest the need for a management plan, particularly for the forest resources in areas with high deforestation, that can reduce the risk of resource depletion and at the same time secure forest product markets.

Considering the aspects presented above, and the fact that the observed patterns may replicate in different regions and woodland types, the following recommendations are presented:

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