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The impact of HIV and AIDS on rural agricultural producers in three regions of Namibia
Prepared for FANRPAN by: Dr Ben Fuller, Deon van Zyl
Namibian Economic Policy Research Unit

Executive summary

Using the basic household survey tool of the NHIES 2003/04,1 a total of 143 HIV affected households were surveyed in three regions of Northern Namibia during November 2004. Data was collected on basic household demographics, income and expenses. The expectation that the NHIES report would be available for this analysis has not materialized. Recent publication of the 2001 Census with Regional analyses has enabled a deeper examination of the data from this survey, as has the publication of the 2004 HIV Prevalence Sentinel Survey results.

While the lack of the NHIES as a basis for comparison is a concern, four key points emerge from the analysis. First, as we examine historical patterns from the Sentinel Survey data in each region, a sense of dynamism is evident. While national results show an overall decline in HIV prevalence, specific sites associated with the regions surveyed indicate a mixed pattern of results with some sites in decline, others on the rise and still others showing little change. These fluctuations could be the result of mortality, actual change in behavior, failure to change behavior, migration, or statistical issues in the Sentinel Survey itself.

Second, our data may indicate that households are adopting coping strategies that vary from region to region. Households appear to be consolidating as adults, particularly male adults, die off. Evidence for this practice was found in the Kavango and Oshana samples. In Oshikoto there was little evidence of this practice. Given that households in Oshikoto were on average economically better off than the other two regions, it is not clear if this difference results from the possibility that the epidemic is not as advanced in Oshikoto as in the other two regions, or if factors specific to that Region are involved.

Third, in addition to household consolidation, the epidemic appears to have affected households differently in terms of agricultural production. Three patterns emerge:

  • There are those households where production is in collapse. These households cannot meet basic subsistence needs in terms of crop production. They have either very low livestock numbers, or have seen a dramatic decline in livestock numbers over the past year.
  • There are those where collapse is imminent. These households are also unable to produce crops for subsistence needs, have moderate numbers of livestock, but have been able to maintain their herds over at least the past year.
  • There are those households that are producing enough crops for subsistence, and are maintaining their livestock herds.
Fourth we conclude that responses to assist these different categories need to be tailored to the needs of each group. For those households where communal production has collapsed, we have to ask the hard question of whether or not it is best to assist them by improving production. These households may benefit more from direct transfers of cash, either in terms of support for orphans (approximately 60% of all households surveyed had an orphan), HIV disability, or a basic income grant.

An understanding of various response patterns in the epidemic would be useful. For example, if there are phases of further deterioration in the ability to produce, additional cash interventions might be required. If this phase represents a low point in a household's productive capacities, then assistance required to restart agricultural production would be appropriate. Households that are near collapse will also require direct transfers of cash, though efforts to maintain their productive capacities may be required. Households that are still able to maintain agricultural production will also need attention. With these latter two categories, it may be best to consider long-term interventions in agriculture. There has been some discussion about substituting less labor-intensive crops for households that are affected by HIV. Changes in agricultural practices can take some years to accomplish and may require additional labor.

If anything, this report shows the need for deeper research into the effects and dynamics of the HIV epidemic in Namibia. This survey highlights the potential for regional differences in the epidemic, and of possible differences in the response of communal farming households to its consequences. This would have an impact on policy as it would require greater knowledge of the trajectory of the epidemic in a given region. It is possible, perhaps advisable, to carry out studies such as this in conjunction with other national level surveys. The NEPRU team found that both HIV support groups, as well as their clients were willing to discuss their situations openly. By carrying out this kind of targeted study, much could be learned about the impacts of the disease.

  1. The NHIES 2003/04 is a comprehensive survey of over 10,000 households in Namibia. A number of different instruments are used to collect data. In this survey, the base questionnaire (Form 1) was used.

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