Chapter 3 Results: The effect on small farmers
Contents - Previous - Next
3.1 The direct costs of HIV/AIDS and the process
3.2 The impact on population
3.3 The impact on labour
3.4 The impact on crop production
3.5 The impact on livestock production
3.6 The impact on the agricultural extension services
3.7 The impact on the fisheries sector
3.8 HIV/AIDS and the loss of agricultural knowledge and management skills
3.9 Coping mechanisms: the role of NGOs and self-help groups
3.10 The personal and community trauma of HIV/AIDS
Like any other disease, HIV/AIDS results in direct costs, mostly medical and funeral expenses, and indirect costs, which are labour related. Potential income is lost because of the illness and death of individuals and the diversion of labour to the task of caring for the sick. If no safety net is present or is incomplete as in Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia, households and rural communities have to bear these costs alone.
Before considering the impact of HIV/AIDS on small-scale farmers, a few words should be said about the organization of the farm-household system. A farm-household system generally consists of three closely interlinked sub-systems:
- the household as a decision-making unit; establishing goals and controlling the system, providing labour, and ensuring food and cash in fulfilment of set objectives;
- the farm and its crop and livestock activities; providing employment, food and cash for the household; and
- the off-farm component, competing with farm activities for labour, providing employment and income-generating activities, becoming increasingly more important to supplement the well-being of farm families (FAO, 1990).
HIV/AIDS intervenes and affects these different sub-systems and their interlinkages as demonstrated in Figure 5. Cash and labour flows are partly diverted to AIDS leaving less labour for farm and off-farm activities as well as reducing cash for the household. Cash which is exchanged by the farm and off-farm system for the purpose of, for example, purchasing fertilizer or financing investments in off-farm activities, may also be used for AIDS related expenses.
It should be noted that this generalized definition of the farm household does not take into consideration the fact that households may be internally differentiated by, for example, age and gender. Thus it is important to recognize that distributional consumption and other entitlement inequalities may be of considerable importance in determining the precise impact of HIV/AIDS on any particular household. This point is of great importance when we consider the relative impact of any traumatic event - such as HIV/AIDS- on the internal operation of a household and thus the relative robustness of different households in the same society and similarly constituted households in different societies. Some of these issues are dealt with below.
Figure 5: Resource diversion due to AIDS in a farm-household system
3.1 The direct costs of HIV/AIDS and the process of impoverishment
In general terms HIV/AIDS has the effect of increasing poverty by escalating costs at every level, to the individual, to the community, to government and to the private sector.
At the family level, medical costs associated with caring for the sick and bedridden have to be borne along with the funeral expenses of family members who die of the disease. Besides the costs of drugs, conventional and traditional medical treatment, households caring for AIDS patients are often faced with meeting expenses for additional special foods to comfort the sick or for items such as extra blankets.
Funeral costs appear to be even higher than expenditures for medical care. A household study carried out by the World Bank in Kagera, Tanzania, revealed that on average US$ 60, of which 60 percent was spent on funeral expenses - the remaining 40 percent having gone towards medical care - was spent on the funeral expenses of a household member. This is an amount which is probably close to the annual per capita income in Kagera. Due to the nature of AIDS, as a predominantly sexually-transmitted disease, there is frequently more than one death in a household. As a result, numerous cases can be observed where a family's entire savings, often meagre before the onset of AIDS, are completely consumed.
Box 1: Case study 1 (Gwanda community, Uganda)
The cost of AIDS
Sarah is a 44-year old widow who lost her husband in 1990 due to AIDS. Apart from caring for her children, farming her 3.5 acre plot, and breeding pigs for sale, she also makes mats, baskets and table cloths which she sells to earn extra income although finding a market for her wares is often difficult.
From the time at which her husband first became ill she has had to use most of her money to pay for his treatment and for that of her mother who was also sick. This took up much of her time and thus she now has fewer hours to manage the farm. Apart from the time she spent canny for the sick, followed by a month mourning the death of her husband, the deaths of other people in the village also interrupt her farm work because she has to attend funerals and prepare food for the relatives of the dead. Since most of the people in her village are closely related and there have been many deaths, in most cases she spends one to four days in mourning with the result that much of her plot is now under weeds and she derives little income from what she is able to produce in the remainder of the time.
The high cost of treating AIDS and the expenses incurred through the death of a person with AIDS, mean that households either require assistance or cash incomes to cope with these additional expenses. Case material from Mpongwe village, Zambia, indicates that one possible source of assistance is from remittances sent by working-age relatives employed elsewhere. There are few households, however, which appear to be actually receiving such external support. This is certainly connected to the straitened circumstances of most urban households whose budgets have been affected by structural adjustment. Inflation has resulted in food and other commodity prices rising considerably in excess of any gains in wages. Within the Mpongwe case studies there were only two households out of 34 being helped by remittances sent from outside the area. Both of these were elderly retired couples; one had 10 successful children, with one son living in London. These children sent money which was used to hire a tractor. Local sources of employment are, however, important for others. Such income sources can pay for resources such as tractor or ox hire, as well as supplementary food and household items.
In the Mgeta area of Tanzania, households headed by women are not uncommon and do not necessarily represent one of the poorest groups of the community, as they frequently benefit from the remittances sent by their husbands. The money received is often used for employing labour and thus their agriculture does not suffer from the lack of labour. Female-headed households, following the death of a husband, are in a much more difficult situation as there is no cash to replace the shortfall of workers.
An increase in the number of female-headed households might occur if women do not become infected or are infected after their partners, and without the benefit of remittances to support their production, only the wealthiest may continue to hire labour and thus for most their output will suffer. The position of women after the death of a spouse is, however, much more favourable amongst women in patrilineal systems, like the Luguru in Tanzania. Although the husband's land will be returned to the clan, the widow will still have access to the land she has inherited from her own clan. In other areas widows may become landless and forced to seek off-farm employment, but in Mgeta they are likely to be able to maintain their agricultural incomes.
The general lack of remittances, however, and the fact that many of those being affected by AIDS are employed locally, means that most of the cost of AIDS will have to be borne internally. Men will experience this cost, because they and their wives will receive the children from brothers and sisters. The brunt of the burden, however, will fall on women, because of the fact that death, like divorce, leads to the social relocation of children to matrilineal kin, which often means in practice to the care of the grandmother. Thus it happens that a number of children end up in households headed by middle-aged or older women.
Inheritance practices may have a negative effect on production and increase the vulnerability of women and children. Especially in Zambia, (but also in Uganda) property grabbing after the death of the husband is a wide-spread practice. According to customary law, in patrilineal systems, all property acquired during marriage belongs to the husband, and after his death, to the husband's family. Relatives arrive soon after the death to claim all the household's possessions which may even include cooking utensils. Despite enactment of the Inheritance And Succession Act of 1989, which was designed to prevent precisely this situation, but seldom respected, this remains a serious problem in Zambia (Foster, 1993). In Uganda, women do not have any official ownership of the land. Once widowed. they may even lose the right to use the land.
At the national level, costs resulting from HIV/AIDS include additional provision for health care directly associated with HIV/AIDS, diversion of resources from other areas of health care, and money for health-education programmes. These expenses involve not only treatment programmes but awareness-building and information campaigns. While much of this work is being undertaken by non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the effective dissemination of information requires the support of governments. Additional costs to governments may also arise from the loss of skilled labour in certain areas, to be replaced by replaced international employees, or from the import of foodstuffs or other items which may be needed to supplement the loss of production etc.
Despite wide-spread impoverishment as a result of HIV/AIDS there may also be some who benefit from the epidemic. While a large number of farmers are forced to sell farm assets like animals and implements to raise money, there are some others who have actually benefitted with the result that they can afford to acquire assets. Box 2 is an example of one such case.
Box 2: Case study 2 (Gwanda community, Uganda)
Benefitting from AIDS?
Peter, 47 is married to a strong looking wife aged 30 and has eight children between the ages of one and, 11 years. His family has so far neither been AIDS affected nor afflicted. Peter can be described as a so-called progressive farmer; he is convinced of the utility of mulching and composting practices end is open to new practices such as growing tomatoes as a cash crop.
Five years ago, this household relied totally on family labour, and owned no cattle. Today, the same household is able occasionally to hire labour, owns 20 head of cattle, a boat with a motor and a television. Peter said that this rise in wealth was possible due to hard work on his farm and to his beer brewing, which he described as a profitable business. But it also seems that his family benefitted by buying cattle from AIDS-afflicted households!, which were short of cash to pay medical bills. His boat was bought from a family who could no longer afford to keep this asset because the husband, a fisherman, had died of AIDS and, the remaining family members did not know how to manage the fishing business.
3.2 The impact on population
In the three countries studied where the HIV/AIDS epidemic has struck, or where its effects are beginning to be perceived, the disease has been both age and gender selective. In Uganda, for example, young adults above 12 and below 40 years of age have been shown to be most at risk, accounting for 91.8 percent of all HIV/AIDS cases. Of the remaining eight percent, children below the age of five account for three-quarters of the total. Men and women are also exposed to different degrees of risk at different ages. Of the 2 089 reported cases of youths aged between 13 and 19 years (June 1993), 1 736 were young women. Recent population-based studies in Uganda have shown women to have a much higher rate of HIV infection than men, sex ratios ranging from 1:1.12 to 1:1.18.
These findings are significant in the context of the present study given that the majority of Uganda's agricultural producers fall within the age group that has been shown to be most at risk of HIV/AIDS infection. This is particularly significant when considered in the light of the labour intensive nature of agriculture. Similarly, it has important implications in terms of the interconnection between domestic and farm production in rural households and the important role of women in agriculture.
In Uganda's Gwanda community, it is suspected that HIV/AIDS had a marked impact on the age pyramid shown in Figure 6. The 20 to 49 year age group is particularly under-represented as well as the very young, children between the ages of 0 and 4, in comparison to the national age pyramid.
Figure 6: Age pyramid of Gwanda
In Tanzania, of the total of 20 694 cases recorded between 1983 and 1993, the cumulative rate per 100 000 is 89.9 for men and 82.4 for women. The highest case rates per 1 000 are seen in the 30 to 39year age group for men and in the 25 to 29-year age group for women.
The situation is less clear in Zambia, since the recorded incidence of HIV/AIDS has so far been largely an urban phenomenon, with 45 percent of recorded cases within the urban areas of the country's Copperbelt. However, the pathways of the spread of infection from the main urban centres are the major transport routes. The carriers are those that use the routes regularly, traders, truck drivers, and business people. Where they interact with people from rural areas, HIV/AIDS infection will spread into the rural areas.
3.3 The impact on labour
As noted above, the effect of HIV/AIDS on the population has been to hit not only women as primary agricultural producers but also the most productive age groups generally. In terms of availability of labour this has significant implications. Population growth was long perceived as the problem in Africa. HIV/AIDS is now resulting in labour shortages for both farm and domestic work in some areas. This phenomenon is likely to become more widespread in the coming decades.
In Uganda, one of the findings has been that the negative impact of HIV/AIDS on agricultural labour is more a result of death than it is of sickness. This is due to the fact that the period between illness and death in this environment is short, reducing the amount of time required in nursing AIDS patients. Even so, in farming systems that are essentially labour dependent, the complete loss (if a person falls sick or dies) or partial loss (if time has to be diverted from farming to the care of the sick) of any household member who is involved in agricultural work, can have a severe effect on that household's agricultural production and finally on its level of consumption and general well-being.
Different factors determine the sensitivity of agriculture to labour loss resulting from AIDS (Gillespie, 1988) these are:
- Seasonality of labour demand
Seasonal labour constraints are not new, due in part to the fact that: farm incomes are low and adults often spend part of the year away from the farm in search of cash incomes; in some regions distribution means that labour has to be mobilised intensively for brief periods only; and daily life requires substantial amounts of labour for non-farm work associated with maintaining the household. Water and fuel collection may occupy as much as eight hours a day - tasks usually carried out by girls and women.
Figure 7: Activity Calendar (Women) Zambia study rainfall
Agricultural labour requirements seem to be more equally distributed over the year in the Ugandan study areas than in the communities examined in Zambia. This can be attributed to the fact that large parts of Uganda are characterized by a bimodal rainfall pattern and a wide range of crops are cultivated, while there is only one rainy season in Zambia and the predominant farming system is maize-based. Figure 7 shows labour distribution for women in Zambia with two marked labour peaks in the year.
- Degree of specialization by gender and age
While farming may be done by women or men or jointly, it is generally recognized that in large parts of Africa women carry the bulk of the farm workload in addition to the domestic activities. A study in the banana-coffee farming system in the Kagera Region, Tanzania, revealed that the asymmetric division of labour between the sexes lead to allocative inefficiency such that farms produce at less than full capacity, and this is without the existence of AIDS (Tibajuka, 1994). In cases of the death of a spouse, the impact is likely to be greater the more differentiated the gender roles are in any particular society. Traditions and a lack of agricultural knowledge generally hinder spouses from easily taking-over their partner's share of the work. Thus it is not only the person who dies, but the knowledge and skills of that individual which die with them. This situation is aggravated where women are concerned. With the death of their husbands, they are likely to lose access to the extension service, to credit, marketing facilities, etc.
In Uganda, some women, having lost their partners, who previously handled marketing, have completely abandoned commercial farming. The widows now only plant enough for their subsistence and have grown very poor as a result. In these and other households, time accorded to nursing the sick, frequent funerals and the mandatory one-week mourning period, second burial ceremonies, deaths of progressive farmers and general demoralization, have all contributed negatively to agricultural production.
- Economic return to labour
In Gwanda community in Uganda, many households appear to be experiencing labour shortages. On the one hand, the high incidence of AIDS-related sickness and death, has caused a labour deficit. On the other hand, there are also some features of the local labour market which contribute to this shortage. In a remote village like Gwanda, agriculture itself has been extremely limited due to the lack of marketing facilities. Rural youths in particular have not found such work attractive, in addition to their perhaps natural wish to explore a wider world away from the constraints and obligations of the village. Even though it is the case that most agricultural work is done by women, it is also true that there are important tasks carried out by men, in particular the clearing and initial cultivation of land. Both men and women farmers complained about, the lack of marketing facilities, low prices for agricultural products and the deteriorating terms of trade for their produce in comparison to products like soap, salt and paraffin.
Moreover, while the farming system changes in response to labour constraints induced by HIV/AIDS, other sectors of the local economy which require workers are nevertheless able to command some of whatever labour is available. In a fishing village near to Gwanda, in spite of numerous deaths due to HIV/AIDS, there are still plenty of fishermen. Those who die from the disease it seems are quickly replaced by others. Many youth from Gwanda and other inland villages apparently find it very hard to acquire employment in the fishing village because although, only a few kilometres away from Gwanda, there is a surplus of labour.
Thus the attraction of the fishing villages, and probably other regional towns and even the capital, Kampala, all act as competitors in the labour market for young male workers, and thus may take labour away from agriculture in the area. These constraints are then further exacerbated by the high level of deaths in an already labour-depleted farming village.
Economic returns to labour are closely linked with the level of intensification in terms of improved seeds, input of fertilizer and pesticides and the level of mechanisation. In all three countries studied, cultivation is mostly done using a hand-hoe, although in Tanzania and Zambia animal traction, and to a lesser extent tractors, are used by wealthier farmers.
- Cultural factors
One of the most significant traditions, which has an impact on labour in times of high mortality is attendance at funerals and the mourning time. Box 3 describes the tradition of mourning in Rukwa region, Tanzania.
Box 3: The tradition of mourning in a Tanzanian village
Following a death in the community of Rukwa in Tanzania, the following customs are observed:
Relatives and neighbours gather to prepare for the burial bringing with them food and livestock to assist the bereaved in feeding those who gather for the burial ceremony. Gifts of money are also made.
On the day of burial, all farm activities are suspended by the entire community. (This may involve more than one village. For example, when the research team was travelling to Lula village, it encountered many people travelling in the opposite direction to Kaengesa village where a person: had died, All of them were carrying something; one for example had a goat).
If an adult dies, mourning takes three days; if it is a child, the rite lasts for two days.
During this period, all relatives do not work while neighbours collect at the house in the evenings to comfort the bereaved family amidst eating and drinking. If the person who died had been wealthy or prominent, neighbours may remain longer still. Cattle, goats and chicken are slaughtered and the local homemade brew is drunk.
When those who were unable to attend the burial ceremony eventually come to console the bereaved family, (even if a month later), the ceremony takes on a new impetus with renewed crying, wailing and more eating and drinking.
When a man dies, his wife is inherited by one of his relatives, usually one of his brothers. The inheritor takes charge of all affairs of the deceased relation e.g. property and children.
When the loss of labour hours as a result of mourning activities is added up and multiplied by the number of burials, the economic impact can be considerable. In other areas of Tanzania traditional mourning rites are even longer. For example, in Mbeya, the period of mourning can last as long as one month. Because of the impact of this custom on the rural economy and in order to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS during these occasions, the Kyela District Council in Mbeya region has attempted to restrict the mourning period to four days. Similar efforts to restrict funeral rites have also been observed in Uganda and are likely to be an important component of local coping mechanisms more generally.
Before the impact of HIV/AIDS on particular aspects of farming activity is described, the following example will serve to show how the farming system in a particular community changed over time without the presence of HIV/AIDS. This brief examination of developments in Nakyerira village, Uganda, illustrates not only how the labour market has changed but how this factor has impacted on the overall farming system.
For the past ten years, there have been marked changes in the types and volume of crops cultivated. Previously, the range of crops commonly included sweet potatoes, bananas, cassava, yams, peas, beans, egg plants, groundnuts, maize, sorghum and a wide variety of green leafy vegetables and fruit. All these crops, especially the vegetables, were grown for home consumption. At times however bananas, beans, groundnuts and maize were sold.
The people of Nakyerira used to employ a large number of migrant labourers from south-western Uganda, Rwanda and other parts of the country. Nakyerira farmers who could not afford to enter into exclusive contracts with migrants depended on casual labour employed elsewhere, particularly on the "Indian" tea plantations about six miles away. These casual labourers were often paid in food.
The introduction of cash crops in the other areas of Uganda and the later decline in tea production, after the 1972 expulsion of Ugandans of Asian origin, led to a drastic decline in labour supply for Nakyerira and the surrounding communities. At the same time the decline of coffee in the mid-1970s meant that many farmers could no longer afford to employ workers. Thus the youth started to migrate from the area to Kampala and Mityana town in search of employment. An agricultural system that had been a net importer of labour thus became a net exporter.
The effects on the farming system were quickly evident. Control of banana pests and diseases became difficult without the farm labourers to do the work. Farmers began to develop labour economising strategies in response to these conditions. Banana and coffee, each for different reasons, is labour demanding and became progressively less cultivated as a result. Coffee trees were cut down and replaced with drought resistant cassava that did not require either labour for mulching or hand weeding. Hardy beer bananas that neither required much labour for weeding, nor labour for cutting grass for mulching or pruning, together with sorghum, replaced banana and coffee as the new cash crops. The available labour was shifted to groundnut and bean growing as well as the production of maize and Irish potatoes. While some of these were labour demanding, the return was apparently superior and offered more food security than retaining weevil-infested banana groves. Where these crops could not be grown, farmers started acquiring and rearing cattle.
As a result, the inadequate labour supply largely accounted for a decline in crop range and volume. Along with loss of soil fertility, high incidence of pests and diseases (see below), prolonged droughts, the main contributory factors were high labour costs resulting from demand exceeding the locally-available supply, and the frequent deaths of farmers and their children. In addition, local people made reference to other recent changes in the labour market. Two main trends were identified. Firstly, former migrant labourers no longer come to the area but instead remained in their home areas producing cash crops in those areas - for example coffee in Ankole and tobacco in Kigezi. Secondly, former migrant labourers who had settled in Mubende and having acquired land and property, have become wealthier and compete in the local labour market as employers. The end result of this labour shortage has been a reduction in the quality and quantity of crops produced.
These events in Nakyerira's recent history indicate that over the last thirty years the population has been adapting its farming system to labour deficits. It could thus be argued that they may be in a good position to cope with the future effects of the epidemic. However, it may also be the case that with poor soils and less dependable rainfall, the community could now be confronted by a dramatic decline in labour availability with results that prove even more destructive of food security on the rural standard of living than are being witnessed in Gwanda, for example.
3.4 The impact on crop production
3.4.1 Reasons for decreasing land use
3.4.2 Decline in crop yields
3.4.3 Changes in cropping patterns: a strategy for survival
3.4.4 The advantages of crop diversification
The direct impact of HIV/AIDS on crop production was observed in terms of a reduction in land area cultivated, a decline in crop yields, and a decline in the range of crops grown. However, the extent of the impact and the relevance of contributing factors differed from country to country and from one farming system to another.
3.4.1 Reasons for decreasing land use
In the first instance, the reduction in land use is attributable to a number of factors which have occurred as a direct result of the HIV/AIDS epidemic or indirectly with the effect of exacerbating existing constraints. These include: sickness and death in households leading to fewer family members being available to work in the fields and thus in the amount of land that it is possible to cultivate; the limitations of land inheritance and land tenure systems, especially as they may affect widowed and orphaned households; poverty, resulting in malnutrition, which in turn affects the health of family members and their ability to perform agricultural work, and which leads to reduced cash incomes needed to purchase inputs such as seed and fertilizer; the selling of land to meet the cost of medical and funeral expenses; and the loss of soil fertility on farms with limited land areas.
A land utilization survey carried out in Masaka and Rakai Districts in Uganda in 1991 found that 23 percent of all farms reported a reduction in land use in the preceding four years (Hunter, 1993). Death and sickness as well as old age and poverty were the leading causes for this decline in land use apart from land given to older children.
The effect of HIV/AIDS in reducing the number of household members available to cultivate crops and large areas of land, has led to substantial reductions in land use in many of the communities studied, especially in Gwanda which has been extremely hard-hit by the epidemic.
In one case, a Ugandan family in Nakyerira community, in which three sons have already died of AIDS, reported that the proportion of land now under cultivation or for livestock grazing had declined from 95 percent in 1991 to 60 percent of the total by July 1993. Furthermore, the expansion of the land which the family had started to realize through the purchase of neighbouring plots, had to be stopped in 1991 due to the sickness of two family members. Some of the land that they had hoped to buy in the neighbourhood of their existing plots had instead been bought by other people. The area which had been planted with coffee, cassava and bananas was abandoned and allowed to revert to bush early in 1992. Even the banana plantation, healthy by local standards (due to the use of cow dung as manure) was overgrown with weeds and contained weevils. Where once the family had planted beans, maize and cassava on 1.5 hectares of land, because of the time needed by family members to nurse the AIDS sick, and due to a lack of money to hire farm workers for ploughing, substantial areas previously devoted to these crops now lay derelict.
A common farming system among the communities studied, particularly in Uganda and Tanzania, is the coffee-banana system. In the zone which forms an arc around the western shore of Lake Victoria and stretches into the north-western part of Tanzania around Kagera, for example, the majority of households cultivate Robusta coffee and savoury bananas matooke as their main crops in combination with a wide range of other annual and perennial crops.
This farming system predominates in Gwanda. Where formerly, larger land areas were planted to banana and coffee, such farms are being abandoned (many having reverted to bush) due to the lack of household labour or money to pay for temporary help to weed, mulch and control against weevil infestations. At the same time, it was observed that many households now consist of orphaned children and their grandparents or other senior relatives, with few young adult family members who would otherwise have done much of the cultivation of crops.
Farming systems which are particularly vulnerable to the impact of HIV/AIDS are likely to be those which are labour intensive in nature.
An example is the village of Mgeta in Tanzania. At the time of the study no AIDS cases had been recorded, but it is easy to see how, given the labour-intensive nature of the farming system, an overall reduction in the area of land prepared for cultivation might be expected, as a consequence of labour shortage due to sickness and death. Some households are already unable to cultivate all of their fields because land preparation is such a time-consuming activity. These are usually the poorest families who need cash incomes and so work on neighbouring fields at the expense of their own, rather than because they have insufficient labour or a large area of land.
A further expectation would be of a simultaneous increase in the land area given over to fallow crops, which require neither weeding nor irrigation. These crops include cassava, pigeon pea and sweet potato. However, households go to great lengths to ensure a rainy season crop of maize and beans so the planting of fallow crops would be likely to increase only during the dry season at the expense of the more labour-intensive cash crop production.
The nature of land tenure and inheritance
In some communities, where land tenure and inheritance traditions favour male inheritance, for example, the effect of the HIV/AIDS epidemic may be especially severe. As increasing numbers of women are left widowed, becoming de facto heads of households, with their rights to land already constrained by the traditional inheritance customs, their access to land is automatically constrained.
In Gwanda and other parts of southern Uganda, land tenure is based on the colonial reform implemented early this century. This is known as the mailo system. The reform, which was important in the colonial political settlement, ensured that the nobility were given superior land rights and the majority of the population became their tenants, whereas previously they might have been described as "serfs" within a "feudal" structure. This system has subsequently become confused in a number of ways, and today there is considerable uncertainty about land tenure.
In practice, both cultivation rights (in the case of the tenants) and land title (in the case of title-holders) are inherited through the male line and women do not inherit these rights except in certain circumstances where they hold rights of trusteeship for a limited period, for example until a male heir attains his majority. In cases where a woman holds such a trusteeship, her husband's patrilineage is likely to bring considerable pressure upon her to relinquish it. This has special implications in the case of HIV/AIDS-affected households where the woman is the survivor.
In cases where people enter into sharecropping arrangements, they may be given land which is heavily infested with perennial weeds requiring considerable manual work before planting is possible. In order that such seasonal cultivation rights do not become transformed into longer-term claims, these loans are for limited periods of around two years. The study noted that land surplus households are reluctant to lend their land because they fear losing their "ownership" rights.
The uncertainties concerning land tenure have given rise to a paradoxical situation where for some, usually poorer, households, there is an effective land shortage which may require that they enter into sharecropping arrangements with households having a surplus, while elsewhere in the community large areas of land remain uncultivated.
In Nakyerira, while local people report that they experience land shortage, in the majority of households there is insufficient labour to ensure optimum utilization. The result is that in most cases farmers have abandoned about one-third of their land to bush due to the lack of farm workers to manage the fields.
The practice of dividing land between children of both sexes (it is not uncommon for fathers to give land to daughters) when they come of age and start their own households or, at the death of the father, is prevalent. In polygamous households, different wives are given usage rights to their own individual plots. These plots will eventually pass on to the male children. As in Gwanda, this practice has the effect of reducing holding size to uneconomic proportions.
Contents - Previous - Next