Full Information about the HIV/AIDS and PID Thematic Project

Background

At the Prolinnova International Partners meeting in Senegal in March 2007, a small group of people from some Country Programmes (CPs) and the International Support Team (IST) discussed HIV/AIDS. They first looked at the impact of HIV/AIDS on rural communities and how research and development (R&D) work needs to respond to this, but a new aspect was raised: the fact that local innovation is occurring within households and communities affected by HIV/AIDS, as people develop coping mechanisms (a process we could refer to as local innovation). Participatory Innovation Development (PID) approaches that support this process could strengthen the impact made by organisations involved in HIV/AIDS work. A task team consisting of people from Mozambique, South Africa and Ghana–South subsequently developed a concept note for a Prolinnova subproject looking at HIV/AIDS-related matters.

Introduction

HIV/AIDS is much more than a health issue. It affects not only physical, but also economic, social and natural human capacity at household and community levels. In terms of socio-economic impact, loss of labour is the immediate visible effect of HIV/AIDS. Especially rural communities, whose livelihoods depend almost exclusively on cultivation and/or on livestock-keeping and other uses of natural resources, are highly affected in this respect. With the increases in human mortality and morbidity, the labour capacity for farming is reduced. This leads, in turn, to reduction in land area cultivated, lower crop yields, less care given to livestock, less cash income from selling crop and livestock products, greater food insecurity, poorer quality of life, and weaker and more vulnerable households, resulting in a downward spiral of vulnerability. Furthermore, the responsibility of caring for the sick also places further burden upon the remaining household/community members. Families often use what little resources they have to provide treatment and care for the sick members. To cover the expenses associated with illness, the family may start spending their savings and selling their assets. When the patient dies, the few remaining assets may be spent to cover funeral and mourning expenses. The household/community is then left weakened and even more impoverished, increasing the susceptibility of the other members to HIV.

On the other hand, communities confronted with adversity do not remain passive. Over generations, they have developed their own coping mechanisms to deal with various threats, such as natural disasters, diseases, famines and droughts. There is already considerable evidence that, in the wake of HIV/AIDS and its impacts, communities develop or adopt new coping mechanisms or adjust the existing ones to deal with the pandemic (cf. the publications of RENEWAL, the Regional Network on AIDS, Livelihoods and Food Security, www.ifpri.org/renewalpub.asp). Identifying these mechanisms and supporting them would lay the foundation for better definition and implementation of appropriate strategies or interventions aimed at mitigating the effects of HIV/AIDS on farming communities. It would play a big role in helping build resilience among the local people. Similarly, there is a need to identify mechanisms that help extremely food-insecure but still healthy households from falling into situations of HIV infection risk. They, too, need support to build up their resilience. In both the already affected households and the endangered households, particular attention must be given to gender issues. Conditions of poverty and gender inequality that force especially mothers into high-risk situations are fuelling HIV/AIDS. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to investigate how to encourage and use the changes/shifts in responsibilities taking place in households and communities as entry points to empower women. Thus far most of the organisations involved in Prolinnova have given relatively little attention to the impact of HIV/AIDS on their work in agriculture and NRM. As a result, their strategies and approaches, including PID, may be ignoring the realities on the ground. Reviewing and re-adjusting their strategies and approaches in the light of the HIV/AIDS crisis will help these organisations become more effective, particularly in reaching the most vulnerable groups in society.

The HAPID initiative involves exploratory work to find out how organisations involved in the Prolinnova programme and local organisations supporting HIV/AIDS-affected households could strengthen their programmes.

Project objectives

The objectives of the initial study are to: 1) develop an understanding of the implications of HIV/AIDS on R&D work (how should R&D agents adapt their processes to take cognizance of HIV/AIDS; 2) to develop an understanding of how local innovation allows households and communities to mitigate the impact of HIV/AIDS, with special attention to women’s roles and decision-making abilities; and 3) to develop and share appropriate strategies and approaches for integrating local innovation and PID in agriculture and natural resource management (NRM) into efforts to avoid/prevent HIV/AIDS and to mitigate its effects. Partnerships will be established between organisations supporting HIV/AIDS-affected households and those working with PID in the Prolinnova network.

Project concept

The project will involve the following phases:

  • Development of an inventory of organizations: In each country participating in this subproject, an inventory will be made of institutions – both within the existing Prolinnova CP and beyond – that are supporting HIV/AIDS-affected households and are working in the area of agriculture and NRM. The inventory will provide an overview of what the institutions are already doing with respect to supporting HIV/AIDS-affected households through agricultural and NRM-related activities. This will include an overview of any relevant projects and studies that may already have been carried out in the country.
  • Inception meeting: A one-day meeting will be held to present the results of the inventory to relevant selected organisations that show interest in collaboration. The participants will analyse the inventory results and the status of ongoing activities in the country, and will discuss the relevance of the activities outlined in this proposal.
  • Capacity building and planning workshop: A 4–5 day workshop will be organised in each country to build the capacity of the participating organisations in: 1) the implications of the HIV/AIDS crisis for farming communities, with special focus on gender issues; and 2) the relevance of local innovation and the PID approach to strengthen resilience at household and community level so as to avoid HIV/AIDS or to mitigate its effects.
  • International review: The international HAPID team will review documents on research and development in agriculture and NRM related to preventing HIV/AIDS and/or alleviate its impacts. The HAPID team will also provide ongoing support to the CPs implementing the project.
  • Studies on innovative coping mechanisms in agriculture and NRM in the face of HIV/AIDS: The study activities will be carried out by both organisations working with HIV/AIDS and organisations experienced in PID. The focus will be on innovations related to agriculture and NRM, including both technical innovations (e.g. to lighten the labour load) and socio-organisational innovations (e.g. minimising labour inputs for grazing through group agreements, supporting the gardening activities of highly endangered or affected households by giving them priority access to land close to their homes).
  • Sharing & policy development: In each participating country, the organisations involved in the studies will meet with a selected group of other interested stakeholders during a 3–5 day workshop to: 1) share and analyse the results and findings of the studies and cases, including reviewing which coping mechanisms can be called “innovations”; 2) analyse the implications of the existence of innovative coping mechanisms for working with HIVAIDS-endangered or affected families and possible ways to build on these using a PID approach; 3) analyse the implications of the study findings and of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in general for work on local innovation and PID in agriculture and NRM: 4) identify further strategies for media work, policy dialogue and institutional change to integrate PID into activities to avoid/mitigate the impact of HIV/AIDS, both within and beyond the realm of agriculture and NRM; and 5) arrive at concrete action plans for participants to internalise the findings and results in their organisations.
  • International level sharing: The Prolinnova partners involved and other selected interested organisations will come together in an international workshop to share country-level experiences and insights and to elaborate a further-reaching set of activities to be implemented based on the recommendations of the workshop participants.

Process

Interested Prolinnova CPs were invited to submit proposals and budgets, based on the generic proposal developed by the HAPID team. Since only limited funding was available, the number of CPs that could be funded for this initial study was restricted to three: Ghana, Mozambique and South Africa. Moreover, their proposed budgets (and associated activities or geographical spread) had to be reduced. The local organisations responsible for coordinating the HAPID activities in each CP were:

  • Ghana–South: ECASARD (Ecumenical Association for Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development)
  • South Africa: FSG (Farmer Support Group), University of KwaZulu-Natal
  • Mozambique: VetAid (responsibility later transferred to ADCR: Association for Rural Community Development).

HAPID was guided by an international team composed of Brigid Letty (Prolinnova–South Africa), Romuald Rutazihana (Prolinnova–Mozambique), Ann Waters-Bayer and Chesha Wettasinha (Prolinnova International Support Team, ETC EcoCulture), Carolien Aantjes (ETC Crystal) and Michael Loevinsohn (Applied Ecology Associates). View self-introductions of the HAPID international team.

The final synthesis report on HAPID can be found here.