The Socio-Economic Impact of HIV/AIDS on Communal Agriculture in Kandeya and Chundu Wards of Mt Darwin and Hurungwe Districts
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The Human Immunodeficiency Virus /Acquired Immuno-deficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS) epidemic is one of the greatest challenges currently facing Zimbabwe. With a national adult prevalence rate of 24.6%, no crisis in the history of Zimbabwe has ever presented such a threat to social and economic progress, as has done this epidemic. Little attention has however been paid to the impact of the disease on agriculture in the communal areas, where the majority of the Zimbabwean people live. The main objective of this study was thus to establish the socio-economic impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic on communal agriculture. To accomplish this objective, data were collected in Chundu and Kandeya to find out how the HIV/AIDS disease is impacting on household medical costs, transport costs, funeral costs and on crop production. Data were collected through household questionnaires, which were administered to 188 and 155 randomly selected household heads in Kandeya and Chundu wards respectively. Qualitative data were gathered through focus group discussions and interviewing key informants. The study established that, in both wards, HIV/AIDS is causing significant increases in household medical and transport costs, as affected persons require constant medical attention. However, no significant increases in funeral expenses were established. The study also found that the premature death of a household member due to AIDS is resulting in statistically significant losses of household income due to foregone production of the deceased. With regard to crop production, HIV/AIDS is causing significant declines of over 40% in the size of the household cultivated area for labour intensive crops such as cotton and tobacco. HIV/AIDS is also causing significant declines in harvested quantities of maize, cotton, tobacco and paprika crops. These declines are resulting in HIV/AIDS-affected households facing critical household food shortages, with the situation being more critical in Kandeya ward. Significant declines in marketed crop quantities of cassava have also been recorded among HIV/AIDS-affected households. This is because affected households are consuming most of their cassava in the belief that the crop boosts the immunity system of an HIV/AIDS patient. No significant declines were however recorded in quantities of marketed cotton, groundnuts and paprika. To counter the problems resulting from HIV/AIDS, households are employing strategies to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic. These strategies are aimed at alleviating household labour loss, raising household income and maintaining household food security. Most of these coping strategies however have short-term benefits to the household, but long-term disastrous impacts causing the abandonment of the growing of cash crops, a decline in harvested crop quantities and the worsening of household food security situation. Based on the above findings, the study recommends education and awareness programmes on HIV/AIDS to protect young adult farmers who are the backbone of current and future communal farming. Government should introduce a low paying medical aid scheme tailor-made for communal farmers to defray huge medical costs that are crippling household farming operations. Government, N.G.Os and the donor community can help communal farmers by providing them with cheap seeds, fertilizers and herbicides, as well as loans to restock draught cattle. Communal labour pooling should also be revived to ease household labour shortages caused by AIDS.