3.4.2 Decline in crop yields
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A major development observed in most small farms covered in the field work has been that of a decline in the crop yield per area, especially in the last five years. The factors identified as responsible for this decline include:
- a decline in soil fertility;
- an increase in pests and plant diseases;
- changes and delays in cropping practices; and
- a decline in external production inputs.
These factors are in part attributable to the effects of HIV/AIDS morbidity and mortality on the availability of labour which has meant that certain necessary tasks like weeding, mulching, pruning, particularly, as noted above, and the clearing of land, generally, have either been inadequately carried out, or completely neglected.
Declines in yields result in a relative reduction in spending power by households which might otherwise have used cash from the sale of produce to buy basic items like soap and paraffin and to hire occasional labour, or to purchase inputs such as seed and fertilizer as well as agricultural implements.
Decline in soil fertility
There are initial signs that an indirect effect of the HIV/AIDS epidemic is to reduce soil fertility. This appears to be due, in part, to a reluctance by farmers to carry out long-term soil conservation measures. This may well be because such measures do not yield an immediate result and are also labour demanding.
Box 4: Case study 3 (Gwanda community, Uganda)
The story of Martin
The story of Martin is the history of a household which has witnessed a dramatic change of circumstances, in a large part attributable to the devastating impact of HIV/AIDS on the family. Martin was an able farmer and a former fisherman. On one acre of land he used to grow bananas, coffee, groundnuts, beans, sweet potatoes, cassava, mangoes, a variety of other vegetables, and a little maize. Most of the time he produced enough food to feed his family of ten and to earn a small amount of cash. The entire half hectare of land was cultivated, with all the family members taking part in the planting and weeding. Thus Martin was able to prepare his land early enough - planting in good time to take advantage of the rains and thereby achieving high yields. He also raised chickens, giving his family ample protein throughout the year.
Some time ago, Martin's wife left the house, but, according to him despite his unhappiness at her departure, at least his farm work did not suffer. However, since then, three of his nine children have died of AIDS and one of his sons was murdered. The shock of these deaths has left him almost mute. Three of his remaining children are also living away from home and it seems they rarely visit their now 70-year old father. These days two-thirds of Martin's land is under bush. The coffee trees, which used to yield about three sacks of coffee each year, have disappeared. Martin doesn't have anyone to tend the groundnuts because they require a lot of work and now there are no garden vegetables either. The banana plantation occupies less than 0.6 hectare and is weedy and dying, being heavily infested with weevils. Last season Martin said they could not plant maize because he could not afford the seed. Although he still produces some cassava and sweet potatoes, there is often not enough of these basic foods to feed his family. Now, if they are lucky, they may be able to eat meat at Christmas, and once a month Martin's eighteen-year old grandson buys a little fish.
In Rakai district in Uganda, for example, the banana plantations used to be either mulched by residues of the plantation where the nutrients of the same plot are recycled, or with grass cut and carried from the open fields, the latter practice requiring considerable labour which was previously hired. This alternative practice is reportedly decreasing due to the expense of hiring farm workers. The farmers themselves frequently do not have the time and energy to carry out these tasks. They may also lack access to the financial resources to purchase fertilizer.
Conversely, soil regeneration may be aided by the fact that a large number of plots are no longer cultivated due to the numerous deaths and sickness within families in the district of Rakai, and the land is thus left fallow by necessity.
In Nakyerira, one farmer, who was considered to have been progressive and successful, reported that he was now poor partly due to a decline in soil fertility. He said that he used to have a good banana plantation, well mulched, weeded and pruned. He had used both organic and non-organic fertilizers. However, with the loss of two daughters as a result of AIDS, and the departure of other children from the home, he could not now afford to hire farm workers. At the same time, his land had suffered the effects of drought and fire. He now complains of poor crop yields due to infertile soils, the presence of banana weevils and the lack of help to do the weeding and mulching. Now, he says he grows mainly cassava, maize and sweet potatoes purely for household consumption.
Box 5: Case study 4 (Gwanda community, Uganda)
How AIDS sickness and death have resulted in a reduction in the land area and a change in the cropping practices of one family
Robert is a 38-year old primary school teacher. He has inherited two hectares of land from his father on which he owns a small mud and wattle house. Four years ago his wife died as a result of a mysterious disease leaving Robert with four young children, two of whom now live in a village 30 miles away with their grandmother. He has remarried and it is the new wife who now does both the housework and the farm work. Only one of the two hectares is cultivated with bananas, groundnuts, cassava, sweet potatoes, beans, cabbage and many other crops.
At present Robert's wife can only grow sufficient produce to feed her family since they do not have enough cash income to buy food. Since the land was only acquired in 1992, the entire area has been overrun with couch grass, Robert's wife has not had the time to do the arduous task of clearing the remaining 1.5 hectares of land, Because of the burden of having so many household and farming tasks, including caring for her father and two sisters who are dying of AIDS, Robert's wife has only been able to plant maize very late in the season. The delay in planting, she believes is the reason that her maize plants are stunted and affected by a virus. It seems that the maize crop will yield almost nothing, and in the meantime she has not had time to prepare the land in order to plant groundnuts.
In order to ensure that she has enough basic food crops for her family, Robert's wife decided to plant early-maturing varieties of cassava, sweet potatoes and bananas which were also supposed to produce good yields. Initially she had problems with banana weevils until the NGO, World Vision, advised her and her husband to control the weevils using cultural methods; this method controls the pest to levels where it does not cause much economic loss, although the weevils have not been eradicated completely.
Increase in pests and plant diseases
A common feature of the farming systems studied, particularly those where there has been a high incidence of AIDS cases, has been an increase in pests and plant diseases. A common pest, which was present or reported in a large number of farms is the banana weevil. Banana weevils used to be controlled either by traditional means, which are labour-intensive, or with the use of chemicals. A shortage of labourers hinders farmers from controlling weevils using traditional methods nor do they necessarily have the financial resources to purchase chemicals.
In the village of Gwanda in Uganda, a cause of decreased production in the coffee shambas has been an increase in insect infestations, particularly of large black stinging ants which are believed to be symptomatic of poor cultural practices. These insects now discourage farmers from working on the starchy crops which they have been trying to cultivate on their run-down coffee shambas. This situation is now described as critical, the plots in many cases, having reverted so far that it is no longer economic for all but the wealthiest or most labour-endowed households, either to recover their old coffee trees or open new areas for coffee production.
At the same time, it was also reported that coffee has generally become a less attractive crop for farmers in the last twenty years. Until the early 1970s, Gwanda was a major coffee growing area. Much of this coffee was grown on land which has now reverted to forest. A decline in world coffee prices, corrupt marketing practices and civil strife, have lessened interest in producing the commodity.
In Gwanda, weevil infestations have contributed to declining banana yields. Although it has been observed that this might have happened anyway, the absence of effective and cheap chemical control methods together with a lack of labour have meant that this problem has now become critical.
In the same village, there also appears to be an increase in the plant diseases, fusarium wilt and sikatoga. The greater incidence of these diseases may also be associated with changes in cultural practices due to a lack of farm labour. Apart from pests and diseases, couch grass, a notorious weed, poses an increasing hindrance to farmers. It is extremely demanding to dig out couch grass manually, because the roots grow very deep. Herbicides, which would be another way of fighting the plant, are too expensive.
Decline in the variety of crops
In a comparison between a study conducted in 1989 and the present fieldwork in Gwanda, marked changes were observed in cropping patterns. There was a general shift away from crops that are labour demanding, like bananas and coffee, to those that are the least labour intensive most frequently cassava and sweet potatoes.
In Nakyerira, farmers claimed that since 1980 there had been many changes in the type and volume of crops grown. Irish potatoes had recently been introduced and cassava and sweet potatoes were now being grown on a larger scale than in the past. The increased cultivation of sweet potatoes and cassava was attributed to the fact that they are easy to plant and maintain, they require less attention than other crops and are also drought resistant. Generally farmers remarked that at present, a narrower range of crops is grown, the emphasis being on sweet potatoes' cassava, beans and maize. Other crops such as sesame and vegetables are either produced in smaller quantities or have been completely abandoned.
An example of a similar trend in Zambia can be taken from the village of Teta, a community which is only just beginning to feel the effects of HIV/AIDS. In the case of one family, where both the husband and wife were ill, the couple reported that they were, as a result of their declining health, reliant both on owning or hiring oxen for planting anything but the smallest area, and that they needed to hire occasional help to weed their lands. Such labour, they noted, was expensive and they could not always afford the cost. Consequently, while the couple had recently been able to hire oxen in order to harvest their maize crop, they were not able could not afford - to grow a significant area of any other produce except for some sweet potatoes cultivated using hired workers. As a result of illness and the family's reliance on hiring oxen and part-time labourers which they could little afford, overall farm production has suffered dramatically leaving the couple with little cash and lower yields of fewer crops.
3.4.3 Changes in cropping patterns: a strategy for survival
In order to adapt to changing, social, economic and environmental factors like disease, drought, and erosion, farmers have responded, in many cases, by changing their cropping patterns. This may be interpreted as a coping mechanism. A recurring pattern in a number of the villages visited during the study was a reduction in the cultivation of cash crops like Irish potatoes and coffee in order to concentrate all available labour on the production of the main subsistence crops like sweet potatoes and cassava. With respect to specific crops the following observations have been made.
In Gwanda, the response to declining banana cultivation has been an increased emphasis on producing the two secondary starch sources, cassava and sweet potatoes, and to a lesser degree on yams and sorghum (the latter being used for beer brewing and thus providing a source of cash income for some households). These crops, apart from being less labour demanding, are more easily stored than bananas; neither is particularly prone to disease infestation at present. However, there are indications of an increasing incidence of cassava mosaic when new cultivars have been introduced by farmers in an effort to arrive at a suitable combination of storage potential, early and late varieties, and palatability of this new staple. What appears to be occurring in Gwanda is a transition from a banana-based farming system to a cassava-based system. This may be considered a period of experimentation and forms part of the epidemic-impact coping process.
Bananas. In both Nakyerira and Gwanda, bananas have been grown for a long time. Traditionally, their production benefitted from better climatic conditions and more available manpower to tend the banana trees. Under careful management, these savoury green bananas, matooke were the staple food of the communities. However, in Nakyerira, adverse climatic conditions (especially the droughts in 1988 and 1991), poor soils, requiring intensive labour for tillage, mulching and pruning, the addition of manure or fertilizers and for the control of weevils, reduced the supply of household labour (due to migration and death), of casual labourers and the increased incidence of crop pests, especially banana weevils, have all contributed to declining banana yields.
Box 6: Case study 5 (Gwanda community, Uganda)
This story illustrates how the break up of a household due to AIDS related sickness and death changed the structure of the household's crop and livestock production
Formerly a family with ten children, the husband and wife owned half a hectare of land on which a new house had been built. The husband, the first to die of AIDS in 1991, had been a successful small trader at a nearby fishing village. Originally the family owned five cows, a banana plantation and had borrowed some additional land. The wife, before contracting AIDS herself in 1992, had made and sold handicrafts to pay her children's school fees and had even gone so far as to operate a craft shop out of her living room.
With the deaths of first the husband and then his wife, the banana plantation went progressively to weed. On the borrowed land some cassava, sweet potatoes and groundnuts were planted. However, during the wife's sickness both the banana plantation which had been briefly intercropped with beans, and the borrowed land went to bush. All five of the family's cows died from a cattle disease because the children did not have the money to pay for veterinary drugs.
Late in 1992 the brother began to reclaim the overgrown plantation. He also started to raise pigs and chickens on the plot. While some of the original land is still being used productively, the family is completely dislocated and all the children depend on the goodwill of relatives some of whom are elderly and themselves suffering from illnesses. Now only two of the ten children live in their original home, the others have gone to stay with relatives.
In the 1960s, two hardy species of beer banana were introduced and widely adopted. These varieties require minimal labour for weeding and pruning. The bananas are very leafy and the fact that they are not pruned lessens the need for mulching. Beer bananas have consequently taken over from matooke and coffee, as the major cash crop.
Other forms of coping mechanisms adopted by farmers after the failure of bananas have included:
- Increasing the cultivation of cassava, maize and sweet potatoes to replace matooke as staple foods because they are better suited to the area especially if planted in time and properly managed; and
- The substitution of banana cultivation with livestock production.
In Gwanda, it was reported that historically, matooke was cultivated by all households together with a fall-back crop of cassava and/or sweet potatoes. Today, both the area cultivated and quality of the matooke produced have declined. The proper cultivation of the savoury banana requires adequate mulching. The mulch consists of surplus banana leaves and, in some cases, additional green matter gathered from swamps. Lower levels of care have meant that there is less leaf matter available from the bananas themselves. In addition, declining household incomes, resulting in part in reduced income opportunities and thus out-migration by the migrant labour population, have meant that this swamp mulch is no longer used.
The ficus tree was also a source of crop mulch as well as improving soil fertility. Ficus trees were planted in the banana groves for this purpose as well as being a source of bark for the traditional craft of bark-cloth making. As the tree takes four years to mature, people consider it a long-term investment which they could not expect to realise in view of their perceived lower life expectancy. Adequate de-suckering and pruning of the bananas is said to be less widely practiced for the same reason and also because these are labour demanding tasks.
Coffee. Prior to 1970 Nakyerira was an important coffee growing area. From 1960 to 1980 many people were able to improve their standard of living markedly through profits made from growing coffee. Some farmers believed it worthwhile to mulch carefully and to use fertilizers. At the same time, many such farmers earned enough and thought it worthwhile to employ labour to tend their coffee plantations. In some cases they also purchased land to increase the volume of production. Today, coffee has almost disappeared from the area, many farmers having given it up completely. The reasons for this are:
- frequent droughts;
- the poor marketing system and late payment;
- HIV/AIDS-related deaths; and
- competition for land between cash and food crops among farmers who have holdings of two acres or less.
In Gwanda increased intercropping of cassava, sweet potatoes and yams, along with some beans, in coffee plantations reflects a combination of the effects of land shortage on some households as well as labour shortages, low prices and poor marketing arrangements.
Maize. White maize is one of the staple crops which has replaced matooke in Nakyerira. Today, each household ensures it has a plot of maize, often inter-cropped with cassava and beans or groundnuts. Households which produce a surplus or are short of money also sell some of the maize they produce. A review of the case histories in the area indicates a decline in maize production over the last decade. Several factors account for this decline:
- inadequate labour supply resulting in poor and often delayed land preparation, late planting and weeding. In the more severely affected households, secondary tillage operations and weeding are simply abandoned;
- crop pests and diseases, especially the maize stalk borer and maize streak virus;
- the lack of extension service advice;
- the lack of capital inputs; and
- unreliable climatic conditions.
Cassava and sweet potatoes. These two crops are important in the agricultural production system. Together with maize, they are now two of the main food crops which have compensated for the decline in matooke. Almost all families in Nakyerira have their largest cultivated area under cassava (usually inter-cropped with maize and groundnuts or beans) followed by sweet potatoes. Under conditions of labour depletion associated with HIV/AIDS, even cassava and sweet potato production may now be abandoned by some households.
Relish crops. A popular relish for people in both Gwanda and Nakyerira is a sauce made of either beans or groundnuts. But there is now insufficient labour available for many households to be able to cultivate plots devoted to these crops. In Gwanda, beans are now more usually inter-cropped among bananas, and are eaten fresh rather than dried - another indication of a decline in food security in this community - average household production having declined to a level where there is insufficient surplus to store and certainly not enough to sell, both of which had been common practices in the past. There has been a similar decline in the cultivation of groundnuts. In the case of both crops, deaths of women together with epidemic-related pressures on women's time have contributed to the declining importance of what were traditionally women's crops.
Many farmers produce between two and ten sacks of unshelled groundnuts and about one sack of beans annually. These require considerable time and labour to shell and this is not readily available. Consequently such producers now receive lower prices for their produce from middlemen who can reap the value-added through their ability to employ processing labour.
Both crops are also vulnerable to disease - groundnuts to rosette and beans to occasional attack by blight. They are also sensitive to the timeliness of planting. Thus HIV/AIDS-associated morbidity and mortality affects production with fewer labourers available to carry out seed-bed preparation, timely planting, weeding and harvesting.
Irish potatoes. Although traditionally grown as a secondary crop and often inter-cropped within the banana plantations, Irish potatoes are now a major cash and food crop. As a quick maturing food crop, the potatoes often protect households against food shortages. Timely planting, proper seed-bed preparation and the selection of varieties that are drought and disease resistant are key considerations towards ensuring a good harvest. In some cases the crop has already suffered from the loss of labour due to HIV/AIDS with whole seasons being foregone due to the lack of labour.
Other produce. Many types of fruit trees and other minor crops were once more popular than they are at present in Nakyerira. On most farms such tree crops as mangoes, pineapples, avocadoes, passion fruit, pears and jackfruit may still be grown but they receive little care from householders since they are not considered part of the normal diet. In recent years these have either been abandoned or largely overlooked and are no longer regarded as everyday crops for cultivation.
Horticultural and root crops, especially vegetables like tomatoes, pumpkin, cabbage and egg plant used to be more widely planted than they are today. Few farmers continue to grow these vegetables owing to pests and plant diseases, especially fungal diseases, which attack tomatoes and cabbages. Fungicides are generally too expensive for poor farmers to afford.
Another reason for the low priority given to these crops may be that there is a lack of understanding by farmers about the importance of fruit and vegetables both as food and cash crops. At the same time, it may be perceived that the growing of these, ostensibly less important crops, entails competition for labour with other subsistence crops like maize, sweet potato and cassava.
3.4.4 The advantages of crop diversification
The example of Teta community in Zambia is also relevant since the diversity of this labour intensive system carries both benefits and trade-offs. In Teta there are four types of production system with most households employing at least three of the four cultivation types. These are:
- upland flat production of maize, millet, possibly sorghum and groundnuts;
- upland mount (or ridge) production of sweet potatoes, beans and cassava;
- citemene production of finger millet and pumpkins; and
- dambo cultivation of maize/beans, cucurbits and Irish potatoes.
The benefits of the Teta farming system derive from the use of residual moisture in dambos to plant food crops in September and the use of composting mounts to plant beans and cassava in March. This system means that the planting season lasts for seven months. This is in marked contrast to the situation in Mpongwe, where the planting period is only two-and-a-half months before the onset of rains (usually November to January).
The advantage of the lengthy planting season lies in the diversity of food crops it is possible to grow and the alternative sources of income so derived which make it possible to supplement income from maize alone. However, one trade-off is that less maize is grown. Maize, which is a main staple may also attract less labour during the weeding months of January and February, since people tend to be busy constructing mounds and planting sweet potatoes. As a result, in 1992-93 yields were slightly lower in Teta than amongst farmers in Mpongwe. Production outputs and sales were significantly lower amongst all types of farmer. But in compensation for the reduced maize and cash outputs, other food and cash crops were able to be substituted as alternative sources of income available to the farmers.
In terms of overall livelihood and food security, the gains of diversification have to be measured against the loss of opportunities to gain a single income from one major activity.
3.5 The impact on livestock production
3.5.1 Changes in livestock raising practices:
3.5.2 The impact on pastoralists
In some of the communities which were studied, changes in livestock raising practices have occurred in recent years. The direct impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic has been felt in several ways. Firstly, cattle are frequently sold to pay medical bills and funeral expenses. Secondly, both AIDS-related death and sickness result in decreases in labour availability, as already noted, further resulting in lower levels of livestock husbandry. In Uganda, partially as a result of the latter, there appears to be a parallel trend towards the keeping of smaller stock, most notably pigs and poultry, which are less labour demanding.
At the same time, there is evidence that some households in Nakyerira, which in the past concentrated on crop production, have begun to turn to livestock production as soils become infertile and previously widespread crop management practices have become difficult to follow or are completely abandoned.
In the same village, for example, more than 50 percent of households keep some cattle and about 30 percent breed pigs. About 80 percent of households were reported to be raising poultry. Goats and sheep are also kept by some farmers. In all cases only a very few animals are held, due to the shortage of land and the incidence of animal diseases. Farmers also recognise that in an area of poor soils, animal manure is an important input for crop production and yet they are restricted in the number of animals they can keep.
Cattle. In Nakyerira, cattle used to be predominantly in the hands of settlers who had migrated to work in the coffee and tea plantations. They started by keeping small herds (8 -15 cows per household) in the 1960s. Today, however, the herds are very small, perhaps 2 - 3 cows for each household. This change is attributed by the people to:
- land shortages and a reduction in farm size per farmer (from about 7.5 hectares in 1960 to an average of approximately 1.5 hectares today);
- an increase in the price of cattle arising out of the sudden realization that cow dung is important in restoring soil fertility to the banana plantations, as well as for other cattle products such as milk and ghee;
- expanded markets for meat in the rural and growing urban centres of Mityana and Kampala which have encouraged many farmers to sell off their large herds;
- diseases such as worms, East Coast Fever, Anaplasmosis, water-borne diseases and Nagana due to tse-tse flies;
- it was also observed that grazing was poorly managed. There was no rotational grazing using paddocks which might have improved the pasture and discouraged the build-up of disease and pests. Water supply, especially during periods of prolonged drought is another major problem requiring arduous labour for water carrying, work which is mainly performed by women.
Goats. Goat raising used to be an important activity in Nakyerira with a significant number of farmers keeping as many as 10 goats up to the early 1980s. Today, the herd size among those who still keep these animals has declined to 6-7 goats. Lack of grazing land and insufficient people look after the animals are given as the reasons for the decline.
Pigs. Pig husbandry became popular in the late 1960s. It expanded in the 1970s and 1980s when women began taking up the activity in response to the increased local market associated with local beer selling establishments and at which roasted pork and beer are sold together.
Poultry. In Nakyerira it was estimated that over 80 percent of households kept poultry. As with livestock, the numbers per household have declined in recent years due to diseases such as coccidiosis and chicken worm.
3.5.1 Changes in livestock raising practices: coping mechanisms
In Gwanda, it was observed that poultry numbers have increased in AlDS-afflicted households and especially in households with orphans. Previously, the free-range system of rearing chickens did not allow farmers to keep many birds at a time, because the banana plantations used to be properly mulched and the chicken would scratch the mulch and damage the beans grown in the plantation. This generated serious conflicts where a neighbour's banana plot was involved. Therefore most households owned only 3 - 5 chicken. Nowadays however, the banana plantations are no longer mulched due to labour constraints, and more chickens are able to forage in the plantations. It was noted that orphans, in particular, tended to keep chickens as a relatively easily available income source. The hens and eggs are usually not for home consumption; they are sold to raise some income, since the orphans' guardians are often too poor to buy the clothes and pay the school fees. Sometimes even the eggs are not sold, but reserved for hatching to produce more chicken.
However, the impact of AIDS has also had a negative side effect on poultry raising. Wild cats are the main predators for poultry. Their numbers are rising because a considerable number of banana plantations and fields have reverted to bush due to the high AIDS mortality in the community.
Pig rearing is another activity which has only been adopted recently in this community. It seemed to be especially attractive as an income-generating activity for widows. Pigs are not very labour demanding and the market price seems to be attractive. Since farmers tend gradually to substitute the production of matooke with cassava and sweet potatoes they soon have enough feed for I - 3 pigs. However, most farmers still lack marketing experience with pigs, pork or piglets.
Farmers, especially young men, also show a keen interest in taking up bee-keeping as a new income-generating activity. Honey, a nontraditional export product of Uganda, presently offers a good price.
One positive impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic on livestock raising generally, according to the District Veterinary Officer in Rakai District in Uganda, is that farmers are becoming more open to innovations and have expressed an interest in dairy farming and cattle rearing using the "zero-grazing" method.
3.5.2 The impact on pastoralists
In Rakai, the Bahima, who are predominantly pastoralists, have close relationships with the settled farmers and have some traditions, such as the levirate, which are known to increase exposure to HIV/AIDS infection. Even before the HIV/AIDS epidemic, a high rate of tuberculosis was found in this community due to the consumption of unboilt, unboiled milk. This risk is increased insofar as the local Ankole cattle have been reported as very susceptible to bovine tuberculosis.
Among these pastoralists, there has been a tendency for herd sizes to become smaller. One of the reasons given was due to an outbreak of the disease, Contagious Bovine Pleuropneumonia. Another reason is due to HIV/AIDS. As with sedentary cattle keepers, people who fall sick sell their animals to pay for drugs and hospitalization. One example was cited in Rakai, of a farming household which had owned 15 cattle. When the parents fell sick and eventually died, five animals were sold. After the deaths of both parents, the children were forced to sell the remaining cattle, one by one in order to survive.
In Tanzania, due to the fact that the HIV/AIDS epidemic is only gradually being felt, while no specific data were available, it is believed that the situation among pastoralists of the Usangu plains in Mbeya rural district, is highly conducive to the spread of the disease. In the past, the nomadic Maasai were considered to be a closed society. However today, the Maasai mix freely with other ethnic groups as they roam through much of the country in search of pastures indeed, in the course of the research project some were seen in northern Zambia. Because of their relative wealth, as they own large herds of livestock and have been introduced to, and accepted the cash economy, the men frequently visit bars and patronise prostitutes.
The mixed population of the plains provides opportunities for the sharing of ideas and customs. For example, in the Usangu plains, there are five irrigation projects belonging to parastatal organisations. These projects employ a large number of workers, hence enhancing further contacts between the pastoralists and the settled population. The rice projects are close to major truck stops on the Dar Es Salaam - Zambia highway. According to local AIDS coordinators, Chimala is one of these settlements, Chimala has a high incidence of HIV/AIDS.
3.6 The impact on the agricultural extension services
In Rakai District in Uganda, HIV/AIDS is reported to have a marked impact on the local extension service. The District Agricultural Officer for Rakai noted that with regard to staff of the Extension Service, between 20 and 50 percent of all working time is lost due to the disease. Staff members were frequently absent from work attending funerals and caring for sick relatives. At the same time, a number of staff members at all levels had fallen sick and some had died. The problem was compounded by the fact that it is difficult to find trained people to replace former staff, both because the area is remote and also because it has the reputation of being a highly HIV/AIDS-affected area.
The epidemic had also made it more difficult for extension staff to meet the farmers. If a meeting coincides with a funeral, the meeting normally has to be rescheduled. In a community such as Gwanda where there were as many as 10 - 15 deaths a month such meetings with extensionists were thus difficult to organize.
It is also becoming apparent that, in some cases extension messages will have to be revised to take into account the impact of the disease on agricultural systems. For example, the European Union's Farming Systems Support Programme has been considering reviving coffee production and consequently promotes a high yielding, pest resistant and early maturing coffee variety. Despite the early maturity of the new variety (18 months) many young farmers do not appear interested in the crop, seeing it as a long term investment and fearing that they may fall sick or die before they reap any benefit from their investment.
3.7 The impact on the fisheries sector
In several communities where fishing constitutes an important primary or secondary activity, it appears that the sector provides a vital source of off-farm employment, in particular for rural youth. In Ndaiga village in Uganda's southern Iganga District, it was noted that for youth from fishing families, fishing is the main source of livelihood. Some of the fish is consumed or traded locally, through a cash or barter system with farmers, while the major portion is sold to local traders or exported further afield.
In both Gwanda and Ndaiga it was noted that young men preferred to work as fishermen than as farmers. In some cases this meant that young adults working away from their families remitted money back to their homes. In other cases, however, it appears that they actually deprived households of vital farm labour. This may have implications for particularly marginalized communities where incentives may be needed to encourage young adults to take on more term work. possibly through the provision of incentives.
One non-governmental organization (NGO), ActionAid in Mityana district in Uganda is reported to have had some success in persuading the youth in some sub-counties to become farmers. This was achieved partly by introducing them to the advantages of cultivating high-value crops.
3.8 HIV/AIDS and the loss of agricultural knowledge and management skills
3.8.1 The loss of other traditional skills
3.8.2 Loss of skills and the division of labour
Although more difficult to quantify, multiple references were made by respondents in the case studies to the loss of traditional knowledge and cultural practices. This was attributed in part to HIV/AIDS-related morbidity and mortality. When one or both parents die or are seriously ill, their skills may not be able to be transferred to their children or other relatives. This may have far-reaching implications in terms of the continuity of agricultural and livestock production as well as for other areas of life (such as craft production) which depend on the continuity of skills and knowledge.
In Eastern Africa, where growing coffee and bananas has been a traditional feature of the farming system, cultural practices associated with coffee and banana tree cultivation may be essential to ensure the system's survival.
As observed earlier in this chapter, the correct mulching, weeding and pruning of plantations is a fair guarantee of reasonable yields. However, in areas where there is a high incidence of HIV/AIDS, plots have become neglected or abandoned, with yields proving correspondingly poor as a result of some or all of the following: insufficient labour to carry out the work; inadequate understanding of the correct agricultural practices; and lack of knowledge about marketing aspects. In several Ugandan villages studied, many successful farmers with a variety of skills had died of AIDS and this had often led to the neglect of crops and livestock, as their surviving relatives have lacked sufficient knowledge of the correct farming practices.
In several Ugandan villages surveyed, many successful farmers, with a variety of skills had died of AIDS and this has often led to the neglect of crops and livestock, as their surviving relatives have lacked sufficient knowledge of the correct farming practices.
In one case study, a group of older men reported that a number of nutritious crops that used to be grown in the past, including certain exotic bean varieties have now been abandoned, mainly because they would require surplus labour which is not available. Groundnut production which used to be the pride and source of income of many households is also declining as middle-aged women, combining strength and knowledge for the preparation of fields; timing of ploughing, planting, weeding, and pest control, are dying, and not being replaced by younger women (among whom the number of deaths is even higher). Added to this, the changing emphasis on the production of foodstuffs, which were formerly regarded as produce of last resort, notably cassava and sweet potatoes, at the expense of other crops is leading to the loss of skills in such areas as banana weevil control, mulching, pruning and the control of stinging insects in coffee shambas.
Evidence that knowledge of cultivation techniques and cultivars is in danger of being lost, particularly among children of families in which one or both parents had died of AIDS, is available from a consideration of new coping strategies. For example, in some cases the local community was reputedly responding to orphaning by neighbours and family members specifically undertaking the agricultural training of orphaned children. Local groups were also beginning to undertake this work, especially women's groups. These might well provide a basis for future development of agricultural training among the young and in particular among those who have been orphaned. This would have a dual effect, notably it would allow for the preservation of local knowledge, while providing activities for rural youths who might otherwise be unemployed.
One example of loss of knowledge is the decline of cattle husbandry in Gwanda. Even if the cattle are not sold during the sickness or after the death of a household member, the remaining family often does not have the management skills and knowledge to care for livestock. This was observed in cases where the head of household, usually the man, died. The wife and the children did not have the time, the knowledge or the financial resources to care adequately for the cattle. The wife often did not have the same access to extension services and other ways of acquiring knowledge as her late husband. Therefore numerous cases were found in the studied communities where cattle had died soon after the death of the head of household.
3.8.1 The loss of other traditional skills
In communities like that of Gwanda where there has been a high incidence of HIV/AIDS, there is also evidence of the loss of knowledge of traditional crafts and skills. While some 5 - 10 percent of the houses in the community were built out of stone, mud and cement, the technique of stone laying has all but disappeared for a number of reasons. These included: the fact that the artisans who knew this skill have died and have not been replaced by younger men; the wealthier farmers and traders who used to provide a market for such building skills have either died of AIDS or are unwilling to invest in such costly ventures knowing that sooner, rather than later, they may be faced with dependent grand-children and other relatives to look after. And finally, apart from skills, such work requires a lot of cheap human labour, and the available labour is, of course, now insufficient for the activity (considering that many have died of AIDS and others are engaged in activities such as trading or fishing).
The demise of the indigenous art of bark cloth making in the community, represents yet another example of how AIDS is leading to the loss of a basic local skill. In a focus group discussion with elderly men in Gwanda, and at a community self appraisal exercise, it was pointed out that now - as opposed to in the past - bark cloth making was strictly the domain of older men, and despite increasing prices for this product.
Two explanations were offered for this phenomenon. First, young men are unwilling to plant the ficus trees, the source of the bark, fearing that they might die before the trees mature. Second, such youths now prefer fishing and trading to bark cloth making. While it is the case that even in the past the men who took-up the profession were mainly middle-aged, since a significant proportion of these have died due to AIDS, it is not surprising that there are few younger people taking up this occupation even though it is perhaps more rewarding than in the past. Thus it appears that some local crafts, like bark cloth making, may be disappearing in the absence of a link between the older and younger generations.
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