Study of HIV/AIDS on agricultural production and mainstreaming into agricultural extension in Uganda
IntroductionThis consultancy aimed at analysing the impact of HIV/AIDS on agricultural production in Uganda as the initial step to mainstream HIV/AIDS into agricultural extension. This study is intended to form the basis for developing and adapting HIV/AIDS messages into agricultural extension. The specific objectives included, among others, to assess the impact of HIV/AIDS on crop and livestock farming, and fishing. The study was carried out in Iganga, Lira, Mbarara and Rakai districts using both quantitative and qualitative methods. Data collection methods included personal interviews with 313 individuals (each representing a purposively selected household), observation, focus group discussions, household real life case studies, in-depth interviews and documentary review.
The major Study Findings were:
Basic Profiles of Studied Households
Most of the households (61.2%) were of peasantry farmers, involved in crop farming on small scale using labour intensive technologies, which are greatly vulnerable to HIV/AIDS. Less than a half of the sampled households (46.0%) had both husband and wife alive. Female adults headed a third of the households (30.4%). Over a tenth of the households (14.4%) were headed by grandfathers and 4.5% headed by both grandparents, while 4.2% were child headed. Almost a third of the household members (30.9%) were aged below 10 years, and slightly than a fifth (21.9%) were aged between 11-17. In only 40.8% of all the household members had both parents alive, while over a quarter (27.1%) of all household members had their both parents dead, and 26.4% had only a mother alive.
Almost all households (91.0%) had lost a member in the last 10 years. Most of the deaths occurred between ages 20-35 for both sexes. Mortality among males surpassed that of females from age 36 and above. HIV/AIDS was reported to be the main cause of death for household members.
HIV/AIDS Knowledge, Sexual Relations and Practices
Overall, 92.7% of the respondents had ever known a person who had AIDS in their community, while 74.8% reported to have ever taken care of a relative or household member who had HIV/AIDS, which translates into time loss. Over a half of the respondents (53.7%) indicated that HIV spread was as a result of people having multiple sexual partners, amidst low usage of condom. Redundancy, poverty and excessive alcohol taking were cited in communities (especially fishing communities) as causes of HIV/AIDS spread.
With regard to sexual relationship, majority (83.3%) were in monogamous relationships. Among the unmarried, almost a third (30.8%) had a regular sexual partner. Of the married and those with regular sexual partners, majority (64.5%) reported having had sexual intercourse outside their marriages/regular sexual relationship.
In respect to prevention, almost all people knew the various ways of preventing and controlling the spread of HIV/AIDS. The issue then is not lack of knowledge of how to prevent an infection, but rather behavioural change. For instance, whereas 46.0% of all respondents knew that condom use would prevent HIV infection, only 15.3% had ever used it.
Impact of HIV/AIDS on Crop Farming
In all the 4 districts, farmers were small landholders owning less than 8 acres of land, and using labour intensive techniques. Most of the households were growing crops on small portions of land with big portions not cultivated. Majority of the households (76.9%) reported reduced agricultural production in the last 10 years mainly due to the effects of HIV/AIDS. HIV/AIDS was reported to have resulted into depletion of labour force, increased workload, poor management and care of gardens/fields, increased dependency burden, loss of skills and knowledge, income disruption, loss of time, land and property grabbing.
Several households (64.8%) had stopped growing crops that required much labour. In a few households this situation was attributed to pests and diseases as a result of poor management, infertile soils and lack of market. At the same time, over a half of the households (60.1%) had unused land or gardens that had reverted into bush due to lack of manpower or lack of money to hire labour.
Impact of HIV/AIDS on Livestock Farming
The animals kept by households included cattle, goats, sheep and pigs. Slightly over a tenth (13.2%) of the households in the pastoral communities reported to have no cattle at all as they had either been sold off to meet family needs resulting from HIV/AIDS or died due to poor management or stolen after the death of able-bodied household members.
Over a quarter of the households (26.4%) reported death of livestock due to lack of care and poor management practices that arise as a result of member's sickness and death. The situation was reported to be more severe in a household where the breadwinner was afflicted with HIV/AIDS or died of related illness. Livestock farmers also faced other problems, which coupled with the effects of HIV/AIDS, were making the situation worse. Thieves were reported to be on rampage, and often the victims were households headed by widows or where a family head was absent.
Labour as a problem faced by livestock farmers was mentioned in over a third of all the sampled households (34.0%). However, it was only in about a tenth (9.4%) of the households that lack of labour was directly linked to HIV/AIDS. Instead, 22.6% of the respondents linked labour shortages to the mandatory policy of Universal Primary Education (UPE), whereby families are obliged to send children to primary schools who would otherwise provide free labour at home.
Impact of HIV/AIDS on Fishing
The socio-economic dynamics in fishing communities unlike in crop and livestock farming communities make them more vulnerable to HIV infection, and susceptible to the impact of the epidemic. Most people involved in fishing spend most of their daytime in recreation and merriment, as they wait for fishing at night, which makes them susceptible to HIV infection.
HIV/AIDS morbidity and mortality characterised all fishing communities and landing sites, which were accompanied with reduction in fish catch. Like in farming and pastoral communities, availability of labour is critical for the survival of the fishing activity. Since most of the fishermen were using traditional gear especially canoes that require muscle power to propel them, a person whose health is deteriorating due to HIV/AIDS cannot cope with fishing.
Often, a number of young men are employed to carry out fishing by rich individuals who own fishing equipment/gear. In the event that the employer dies, all the employees lose jobs, which translates into low fish catch.
Mainstreaming HIV/AIDS Messages into Agricultural Extension in Uganda
Majority of the respondents (87.2%; n = 272) indicated that they were receiving information on HIV/AIDS. The dominant source of information was the radio. Extension workers emerged as the least source of HIV/AIDS information. Most respondents preferred radio and health workers as their source of HIV information; 41.5% and 40.3% respectively. A tenth (10.5%) preferred extension workers as their source of HIV/AIDS information. Accessibility or convenience, clarity, costs involved and availability influenced preference of information.
All the extension workers met in this study reported that they were not dealing with HIV/AIDS issues in their work. In most cases they perceived HIV/AIDS an issue to be dealt with by staff in the health sector. Further investigation revealed that the extension workers were not equipped with skills and knowledge to deal with HIV/AIDS.
In mainstreaming HIV/AIDS into agricultural extension, capacity and confidence building for the extension workers, coupled with attitude change that HIV/AIDS is a development issue, which undermines agricultural production will be some of the guiding principles. Secondly, this will contribute towards the realisation of the ideals of Plan for Modernisation of Agriculture (PAM).
Sensitisation of Key Ministry Staff:- Mainstreaming HIV/AIDS into agricultural extension cannot succeed unless the policy environment exists. First and foremost, there is need to sensitise Ministry officials that guide policy on the need to mainstream HIV/AIDS into agricultural extension.
Designing Appropriate HIV/AIDS Messages:- Messages should aim at preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS as well as to contribute to increased agricultural production. The messages should as much as possible bring out the link between HIV/AIDS and agricultural production on one hand, and fishing on the other. In particular, for HIV/AIDS and agricultural production, the messages should be able to help farmers to access high yielding or improved seed varieties, resistant crops, less labour intensive crops, knowledge on plant/animal diseases or pests, improved farming andhusbandry skills, farming systems, post-harvest handling/storage of agricultural products, marketing or prices and improved livestock.
Building Capacity of Extension Workers:-Extension workers need to be trained/sensitised so as to be empowered and gain confidence on how to deal with HIV/AIDS issues. If HIV/AIDS is to be mainstreamed into agricultural extension, extension staff capacity building will be one of the first priority areas. In particular, the areas to emphasise include HIV/AIDS communication and dissemination techniques, HIV/AIDS control and prevention, opportunistic infections, and simple management, basic counselling techniques and psychosocial support, mobilisation skills, nutritional issues for people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHA), concepts of protected sex and property rights awareness.
As part of capacity building, mainstreaming HIV/AIDS into agricultural extension will necessitate logistical support for extension agents including the provision of visual aids/materials, training manuals, stationery, and transport where not available.
Networking and Collaboration:- In mainstreaming HIV/AIDS into agricultural extension, IP/FAO and MAAIF have to enlist support and expertise from agencies and organisations, which are already involved in related HIV/AIDS activities. There is need to work closely with Uganda AIDS Commission (UAC) to identify potential resource agencies.