Mitigating the impact of HIV/AIDS: Enhancing long-term agricultural productivity

Forestry and agroforestry can address the problem of insufficient labour and capital resources in the agriculture sector in the following ways.

  • Land and resource tenure. Access and ownership of land is a determining factor for the viability of HIV/AIDS affected households. Trees have long been an indicator of tenure in Africa. Trees can secure land but they can also encourage others to grab that portion of land where trees have been planted. Tree-related interventions should be placed within the context of customary land tenure and emerging legal and traditional responses to land tenure issues in each tribal area affected by HIV/AIDS. Trees planted in abandoned fallows can preserve the land for the family, rehabilitate wasted soils and provide products (fuelwood, fodder, fruits) for consumption or sale for up to eight years depending on the species planted. However, the potential of such interventions will necessarily vary even between adjacent communities sharing the same culture heritage and in the same agro-ecological zones.

    Agroforestry. Trees can be a vital component of the response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic by providing a source of fruit, animal fodder, fuelwood and income. (Photo: C. Holding Anyonge)

  • Traditional agroforestry systems. Traditional agroforestry systems are diverse. They vary among agro-ecological zones and are socially and culturally specific. Some externally derived agroforestry systems are labour intensive, but many traditional systems using indigenous tree species are not. A close analysis of prevailing agroforestry and production systems in highly HIV/AIDS prevalent areas would reveal several low labour agroforestry alternatives that would maintain the capital of the soil and the production from the land during a generation of low labour availability. As there are considerable gaps in understanding about the interface between the HIV/AIDS pandemic and agriculture, trees, food security and livelihoods, action learning programmes with collaborating agencies would be the most appropriate in this context. Any intervention, for example species selection, would in this manner be designed to locally specific agro-ecological and social cultural parameters.

  • Forest fire management. With less labour available for land clearance, HIV affected communities are obliged to use more fire in clearing land for agriculture. More use of fire also leads to greater destruction of woodlands and the multiple products and services that woodlands can provide to communities. Joint HIV/AIDS awareness combined with sustainable fire and woodland management programmes have been shown to be an effective response to HIV/AIDS epidemic in countries in Southern Africa.

    Discussing the role of customary woodlands in the provision of medicine and nutrition to HIV/AIDS affected households. (Photo: C. Holding Anyonge)

  • Natural medicines. Certain tree species are instrumental in treating the opportunistic infections of HIV/AIDS. Medical plants and tree species are well documented and chemically analysed in the South African literature. Medicinal trees could also form part of a programme drawing on the expertise of the forestry sector.

  • Extension. The role of extension in supporting and enhancing the capacity of traditional village and tribal structures and coordinating local agricultural and forest institutions and non-governmental organizations to ensure that they are able to respond to community needs is a central pillar of programming at the local level. Natural resource programmes working in close collaboration with traditional leaders and using traditional entertainment media such as theatre, song and dance can both raise awareness and support communities in the sustainable management of their natural resources in response to the epidemic.

last updated:  Friday, April 23, 2004