Notes to broadcasters
There are an astounding number of AIDS orphans in many parts of Africa. According to the latest estimates from UNAIDS, there are 12 million AIDS orphans living in sub-Saharan Africa, and the following countries have more than 100,000 AIDS orphans: Angola, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. South Africa has 1.7 million AIDS orphans. One out of every 12 persons of any age in Zimbabwe is an AIDS orphan, one out of every 14 in Botswana and one out of every 16 in Zambia.
We may be familiar with the loss of health and life caused by HIV and AIDS. But this script introduces another way in which HIV and AIDS impacts rural society: the loss of agricultural knowledge. If parents die of AIDS (or other causes) when their children are young, they cannot pass on their farming knowledge. Local farming knowledge includes knowledge of local crop varieties, local medicinal plants, local livestock, local soil conditions, local climate, local water conservation needs, and many other kinds of knowledge. Unless this knowledge is passed on from one generation to the other, it is easily lost. Without this local knowledge, agriculture land may be unused or exploited and degraded without sensitivity to its limitations. Crop varieties and livestock breeds bred for generations may be lost at a time when population pressures and climate change are already challenging the capacity of the land to feed rural people.
In some cases, AIDS orphans are cared for by relatives. But often, extended families and other traditional coping mechanisms are already strained to the breaking point by HIV and AIDS. Orphans may be abused in their new families, they may be sold or encouraged to enter into sex work, or they may simply have no-one to take care of them and end up taking care of each other in child-headed households.
African countries are taking action to care for these orphans. Some countries are recognizing the importance of passing along farming knowledge from one generation to another. The following script is based on activities taking place in the country of Swaziland, where local organizations, government ministries and chiefdoms are caring for some orphans and trying to ensure that farming knowledge is passed from parent to child.
You can adapt this script by interviewing people in your local and national government agencies, national and international NGOs, and religious organizations. Find out if there are strategies to support AIDS orphans in your community, and to keep local farming knowledge alive. You can also talk to farming families and farmers’ organizations. Ask farmers whether they think it’s important to pass on farming information to their children, and what are the best ways to pass on this precious knowledge.
Contributed by: Vijay Cuddeford, managing editor, Developing Countries Farm Radio Network.
Reviewed by: Rebecca Hodes, D.Phil candidate in the History of Medicine, Oxford University.
Focus: HIV/AIDS in the Media.
- Sue Clay and Virginia Bond. We didn’t apply to be AIDS orphans. PANOS London, July 22, 2003.
- Nathi Gule. Knowledge is dying. PANOS London, January 24, 2007.
- Zakhe Hlanze, Thanky Gama, Sibusiso Mondlane, 2005. The Impact of HIV/AIDS and Drought on Local Knowledge Systems for Agrobiodiversity and Food Security. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), July 2005.
- National Emergency Response Council on HIV/AIDS (NERCHA), undated. NERCHA’S intervention on Orphaned and Vulnerable Children: Ensuring food security for orphans and vulnerable children in Swaziland.
- UNAIDS, 2006. Report on the global AIDS epidemic 2006.
- FAO, 2006. FAO (2006). Junior farmer field and life schools.
- * Indlunkhulu is a Siswati term that refers to the provision of food from the Chief’s fields for members of the community that are unable to support themselves.