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February 2003

The impact of HIV/AIDS on the different farming sectors in Namibia

This report, issued jointly by the University of Namibia and the FAO Regional Office for Africa, provides background to the situation of HIV/AIDS in Namibia. Issues related to the impact of HIV/AIDS on farming, both communal and commercial are reviewed. It begins with the impact of HIV/AIDS on the social structure in the farming communities and is followed by the impacts on labour and income, land ownership and the health and psychological well-being of affected households including school-age children in schools. Findings on the impact of the epidemic on crop and livestock production, community coping mechanisms and strategies for increasing labour productivity are also covered.

The methodology employed in this specific study is also addressed. Essentially, the study aimed to obtain a representative sample of the Namibian communal and commercial agricultural sectors and to describe how these have been affected by HIV/AIDS. Regions were selected to capture the following different characteristics of the farming communities: (i) communal versus commercial farming, (ii) livestock versus crop production, and (iii) high versus low HIV/AIDS prevalence. Based on this criterion, the seven regions selected for the survey were Caprivi, Erongo, Karas, Khomas, Omaheke, Omusati and Oshikoto. The survey was carried out in October 2001 with a total of 428 questionnaires were received of which 319 were from communal farmers and 109 from commercial farmers. Cross tabulations, frequencies and Chi-square analyses were then performed on these data.

The level of stigma is still high in these farming communities, and this may hinder the health-seeking behaviours of the affected and infected rural persons. The results have also showed that there has been reduction in labour input on various farm enterprises and operations on communal as well as some commercial farms. The consequences of reduced labour input are reduced area cultivated, increased use of child labour, change in crops grown and less intensive husbandry practices. The sale of livestock to cover medical bills arising out of HIV/AIDS illnesses will, in the long term, result in a decline in the sales of beef by Namibia to South Africa and the European Union.

Traditional practices in some of the regions dictate that once the male head of the household dies from AIDS or HIV related illnesses, the relatives claim the property, at the expense of the wife and children. Systems of mourning take many days and entail considerable expenditure. It is suggested that the period for mourning be reduced to a minimum because it affects labour inputs and production in the farming communities.

Conclusions and recommendations of the study are provided. On the whole, it is being recommended to farmer organisations, government, traditional leaders and the community at large to provide HIV/AIDS education and prevention efforts and where possible provide support and counselling to the afflicted farming communities. It was further recommended that communities adopt strategies that minimise the reduction of labour input and optimise co-operative enterprises and practices so as to ensure sustained agricultural production and food security. MWARD should be providing more training and extension materials to their extension agents to educate the farmers of the impact of HIV/AIDS on the farming systems and communities.

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