Responding to the Challenge of Hivaids

As indicated above, the spread of HIV/AIDS infections in many countries is not only having a devastating effect on families but also on rural services and agricultural production. Clearly, national health agencies are primarily responsible for co-ordinating the responses to the epidemic, but extension services also have to review their approaches in light of the changes in the rural labor force wrought by the disease and the effects on the services themselves:

Agricultural extension services cannot and should not be expected to put an end to HIV/AIDS. . . . However . . . the fact remains that these are the only organizations whose field staff are very familiar with rural life. They, therefore, can and should play a meaningful role in helping the farming communities for protection against AIDS. If they do not move fast, in collaboration with other relevant institutions, to properly respond to the increasing impact of HIV/AIDS on the overall farming situation in general and on their own weakening organization capacity in particular, the consequences could be disastrous and far reaching.133

Qamar outlines a number of possible strategies to face the challenge of HIV/AIDS in rural areas, including the following:

• Formulation of a national policy on AIDS and extension.. . .

• Preparation of extension staff [through] revision of pre-service and in-service training curricula. . . .

As part of Malawi's reforms to its extension service:

Male extension workers have received specific guidance on working with women farmers and on-farm demonstrations now often use women farmers' fields. Women's participation at training sessions has increased tremendously since their own fields have been included in the training and demonstration program. In addition, extension workers have been instructed to include the following in their activities: low as well as high resource farmers; women farmers with both high and low resources; women as both household heads and wives (FAO, 2001, Module 12).

132. FAO, 2001, Module 12 [emphasis added].

• Fast-track training of extension staff, through intensive orientation sessions of short duration [given] by health specialists, rural sociologists, and anthropologists [so that] extension staff should possess knowledge on the relationship between food security and HIV/AIDS, the main causes for the spread of HIV/AIDS, its visible signs, precautions to be taken in the handling of patients, ethical and privacy considerations, development of a healthy and constructive attitude towards sick persons, coping with the new clientele of extension, common fears about the epidemic which have no scientific basis, and on tactful strategies to discourage certain sexual practices embedded in culture that expedite the spread of HIV infection.. . .

• Revision of extension strategies and technical messages. Agricultural extension strategies, methods, and technical content, should all be revised and adjusted in light of the fact that large numbers of inexperienced men, women, youth, widows and orphans are being forced into farming due to the death of their traditional bread winners. Many of these persons are physically weak. They are not able to use heavy farm machinery and equipment, nor are they able to follow any cropping patterns requiring vigorous and frequent physical labor. ... In Malawi, for example, the families affected by HIV/AIDS are giving up labor-demanding tobacco cultivation and post-harvest processing in favor of crops like cassava and sweet potatoes, which require less manual labor. . . .

Introduction and/or strengthening of extension methodologies using a group approach that can be applied with relatively small number of extension staff in view of dwindling number of extension workers. Development of HIV/AIDS-oriented participatory, client-focused extension approaches and technical messages in order to address specific extension and training needs of old and new clientele in terms of age, gender. . . . Involvement of rural youth in extension program planning and implementation since they constitute the sexually most active social group and therefore are hardest hit by AIDs. ...

• Preparation of multi-media extension materials on HIV/AIDS. . . .134

Daphne Topouzis has also reported on the incidence and seriousness of the effects of

Farming systems with fertile soils, abundant and well-distributed rainfall and a wide range of crops are less likely to be sensitive to labor loss than those with poor soils, little rainfall and a limited range of crops.. . . For example, Uganda's farming systems are less vulnerable to the HIV epidemic than the maize-based cropping systems of southern Africa.

.. . agricultural output in Zimbabwe has declined by nearly 20 percent among households affected by AIDS. Maize production by smallholder farmers and commercial farms has declined by 61 percent because of illness and death from AIDS. Cotton, vegetables, groundnut and sunflower crops have been cut by nearly half, and cattle farming has declined by almost one-third.. . .135

She emphasizes the need to strengthen existing multi-sectoral responses and the urgency of improving our understanding of the implications of the epidemic for training programs:

Multi-sectoral approaches to HIV/AIDS were widely adopted in the 1990s in recognition of the growing realization that the HIV epidemic was more than just a health problem and that

HIV/AIDS on agricultural production:

135. Daphne Topouzis, 'The impact of HIV on agriculture and rural development: implications for training institutions', in M. K. Qamar (Ed.), Human Resources in Agricultural and Rural Development, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome, 2000, p. 94.

the intervention of ministries of health was not enough to stop the spread of the epidemic and mitigate its impact.

Multi-sectoral approaches in ministries of agriculture (MoAs) frequently have two components: the establishment of HIV/AIDS local points within the MoA; and information, education and communications activities for MoA staff and target groups. Both of these components have been primarily health-based. Information, education and communications activities have often been added on to training programs and projects but have rarely touched on the core areas of agricultural and rural development work. In other words, multi-sectoral responses have essentially consisted of AIDS-specific components that were implemented in relative isolation from the mainstream activities of MoAs. Similarly, the vast majority of donor projects in MoAs have not addressed the implications of HIV/AIDS for food and livelihood security. . ..

In view of this, the multi-sectoral response concept needs to be redefined within a developmental context in order to extend responses to HIV/AIDS beyond the health sector and into the core technical areas of agriculture and rural development. .. .136

She recommends addressing the following questions in order to improve the responses to HIV/AIDS:

• What are the key implications of increased young adult morbidity and mortality for training institutions and their training strategies?

• How can training programs be adjusted to reflect the developmental implications of HIV/AIDS? .. .

• What is needed to ensure that the technology developed and diffused by publicly financed agro-research institutions is relevant to the changing needs of rural producers and consumers in view of the HIV epidemic? . ..

• What changes are needed in training curricula and methodologies at the trainer and trainee levels?

• What are the required steps for facilitating the necessary adjustments to training curricula, methodologies and procedures?137

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