The impact of HIV/AIDS on farming households in the Monze District of Zambia

The impact of HIV/AIDS on farming households in the Monze District of Zambia

Analysis of how HIV/AIDS undermines household responsiveness to cope with crises

This paper focuses on how HIV/AIDS undermines household responsiveness to cope with crises, such as new agricultural policy reforms, HIV/AIDS, years of drought, and death of cattle. It uses a collection of 32 household case-studies. It investigates how caring for a chronically ill family member impinges on household production and alters labour allocation between genders and generations. Specifically, it aims to show how HIV/AIDS impacts on household demographics, labour allocation, farming, decision making, and overall livelihoods and highlights the specific coping strategies and structural changes occurring within and between households.

Some of the main conclusions include:

  • long periods of morbidity, time allocated to care giving, and costs of care and fostering orphans have been the greatest burden for households. For those HIV/AIDS afflicted and affected, the situation is worse
  • a reverse aging process is occurring whereby middle aged generations die off, leaving a gap between older and younger generations. Consequently, more and more families consist of elderly grandparents and orphans
  • women and grandparents are overburdened with caring for patients and later on, in fostering orphans, and in these situations, larger support networks between women and natal kin, or between older generations and their grown up children, become key coping mechanisms to overcome the economic hardships of HIV/AIDS and the other shocks
  • gender divisions are being strained: women take on the role of primary care giver while also trying to carry out their roles as housewife, intensive farm labourer, and mother. In contrast, men are more likely to reduce their own farming activities to play the role of "breadwinner," searching for food and money for the patient. Although this is important, problems still arise, especially during planting and harvesting when men and women’s labour is essential to agricultural productivity. The need for male and female labour has also been accentuated by the drought, death of cattle, and agricultural policy reforms
  • households have become increasingly dependent on manual labour and on women’s marketing gardening as a main source of income. Because men do not help women with care giving or take over women’s weeding and planting, women’s time and savings are being consumed by care giving. Although this is important, less cash is available to invest in farming inputs. And, productivity declines as women spend less time in their fields, leading to greater food insecurity. Unless households begin to reinvest in farming and find alternative sources of income, food insecurity will continue
  • the differential vulnerability between households varies according to household size and wealth. Currently, middle ranked households are more likely to lose a women's contribution temporarily than suffer the burden of care giving directly in their home. For the poorest households less food secure, the effects of labour shortages and economic costs of care giving are much more acute.

This study offers a first step towards that objective in hope that more research will go into understanding how men, women, and younger generations adapt to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the Monze district.

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