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close this bookImpact of HIV/AIDS on Smallholder Agricultural Production in Gweru, Zimbabwe (UNAIDS - Best Practice Digest, 2000, 3 p.)
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Impact of HIV/AIDS on Smallholder Agricultural Production in Gweru, Zimbabwe

Summarised from the paper by N.M. Ncube in AIDS and African Smallholder Agriculture. 1999. Edited by Gladys Mutangadura, Helen Jackson, Duduzile Mukurazita. SAfAIDS.

More than 75% of the population of the Gweru/Shurugwi district lives in the rural area. Farming systems include mainly livestock production (cattle and goats) and crop production (maize and groundnuts). Agricultural smallholder households depend on family labour for almost all their farming operations. Households produce for home consumption and sale, the income obtained from surplus is used for other development activities like paying school fees and constructing better homes.

Communal and resettlement areas (dryland)

A selection of 53 households from the communal and resettlement areas (dryland) were selected for the study. Collecting data on HIV/AIDS from communities and relevant institutions like health organisations is sensitive and not easy. The stigma associated with the disease makes people unwilling to discuss or give AIDS - related information, especially about family members.

Using a questionnaire and in discussion, production figures for each household during the 1997/98 season were obtained. Information on production included cultivated areas for each crop, areas lying idle for each crop, total yields etc. When calculating income, normal average yields were assumed for each crop.

Data were collected on livestock lost due to irregular dipping, thefts due to labour shortage to manage the animals and so on. Numbers of livestock and farm implements sold to buy medication and pay for funeral expenses were collected and then expressed in monetary terms to show how much income each household lost because of HIV/AIDS.

Irrigation schemes

Generally three different crops are grown per cropping year in each irrigation scheme. Secondary data were used to establish production figures and other data like the number of plot holders, area owned by them and so on. Some 48 plot holders were used as a sample for the study.

Research findings

· Out of the 53 households studied in the dryland sector, the age group with the highest number of deaths was 31-41 years, followed by the 21-30 and 55+.

· AGRITEX extension workers are expected to attend funerals in their communities. They spend on average three days per month (10% of working time) attending funerals so 10% of their salaries is lost.

· Land was uncultivated for crop production during the 1997/98 season because of: labour shortage due to the death of family members, shortage of agricultural inputs due to the death of an income earner, and lack of draught power and farm implements (sold to cover medical and funeral expenses). The 53 households in the dryland sector lost Z$485,660 in uncultivated areas.

· Income was lost through poor management of crops and livestock due to shortage of labour and lack of agricultural inputs. Some of the 53 households did operations partially or not at all. Failure to herd cattle, for instance, resulted in thefts and deaths.

· Income was lost through the sale of livestock and farm implements. The study expected to find large areas of land lying idle in irrigation schemes because of HIV/AIDS but this was not the case. Irrigation farming is more viable and reliable and farmers obtain loans to hire labour because they are certain they will make profits. But there has been a tendency to plant and then partially neglect the other operations if no other labour is available. This does reduce yields and income.

Currently employed coping strategies

· Individual households reduce their cultivated areas and, if they have irrigation plots, concentrate all their efforts on this and areas around their homestead. Children are sometimes withdrawn from school to save money. Individuals sometimes ask relatives to look after their children. Orphans seek employment locally and in towns if there is no one to look after them.

· At community level, according to the study, not much is being done to help affected families manage because people are still shy to come together and openly talk about the disease. Local leaders have not done anything to address the problem. They tend to look to government for solutions and some help. In some communities, neighbours have given affected families items like soap, sugar, tea and suchlike.

· Some communities reported that the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare was giving financial assistance to affected families and educating them on care for the sick.

Suggested strategies from the community

· Government should give free food to affected families and orphans

· Orphans should receive free education and health care

· Government should provide draught power and inputs to the affected families

· Government should give funds for starting projects

· Government should make people more aware of the dangers of HIV/AIDS and how it can be prevented

· Government should be more open to people about the disease so that local leaders can be more open

· Government should encourage the chief's field or grain storage concept

Conclusions

HIV/AIDS in Gweru/Shurugwi district is reducing agricultural productivity because it physically weakens labour, thus reducing areas under cultivation and time spent in managing crops and livestock. A participatory approach involving the communities and relevant institutions should come up with better labour-saving, cheaper technologies for use by the physically weak (men, women and children) such as lighter ploughs, cheaper and easier to manage draught power like donkeys. Government should establish a draught power and implements fund to provide loans to affected households, and should launch more campaigns against the epidemic.