Agricultural skills necessary for AIDS orphans
Field schools pass on livelihood knowledge
1 December 2004, Rome -- As parents fall sick and die from AIDS, knowledge and values are not passed to younger generations, leaving children with few skills to make a living, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said today on World Aids Day.
Orphaned children are growing up without the necessary knowledge and skills for their future livelihoods as parents die before they have passed on practical farming knowledge to their children.
FAO, in response, has set up farm schools together with the World Food Programme where orphaned and other vulnerable children learn the necessary skills to produce food and income from agriculture.
In Mozambique, where UNAIDS estimates that over 470.000 children have been orphaned by AIDS, FAO set up four Junior Farmer Field and Life Schools in 2003. A year later, with the support of the Ministry of Agriculture, 28 schools are up and running.
"The schools in Mozambique have been a success," said Carol Djeddah, an FAO HIV/AIDS Officer in charge of the project. "Approximately 1 000 children are attending our schools at the moment. And as they pass their newly gained knowledge on to their families and communities the impact is multiplied."
After the successful experience in Mozambique, FAO is launching similar schools in Kenya, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Swaziland.
FAO combating HIV/AIDS
In combating HIV/AIDS, FAO works to lessen the disease's impact on agriculture, food security, nutrition and farming systems. This battle is becoming increasingly critical as the epidemic creates a major knowledge gap in the affected countries at all levels from institutions to communities and families.
With the field schools, FAO aims to achieve long term food security. Young boys and girls are often family supporters in regions struck by HIV/AIDS. In these schools they learn about field preparation, sowing and transplanting, weeding, irrigation, pest control, utilization and conservation of available resources, utilization and processing of food crops, harvesting, storage and marketing skills.
Besides agriculture, the program teaches the children life skills such as self-awareness, assertiveness, HIV/AIDS prevention as well as gender equality and human rights.
"Through the field schools the orphans gain power to handle their own future," said Marcela Villarreal, FAO AIDS specialist. "These schools teach basic agricultural knowledge and develop entrepreneurial skills among young people, enabling them to grow up as independent, conscientious and enterprising citizens," she said. "The self esteem they gain also helps prevent the children from engaging in HIV/AIDS risky behaviour."
Teaching with theatre and dance
Some teaching is conducted through theatre and dance where the children learn while participating and watching. It explores sensitive issues such as sexuality, sexual health and psycho-social problems, children's rights, gender roles and HIV/AIDS.
"The field schools are practical ways to convey knowledge, skills and self esteem among the children who would otherwise have been marginalized and fallen out of the normal social safety nets," said Ms Villarreal.
Information Officer, FAO
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