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Transcending boundaries to improve the food security of HIV-affected households in rural Uganda

Katharine Coon, Jessica Ogden, John Odolon, Anthony Obudi-Owor, Charles Otim, James Byakigga, Peter Sebanja

July 2007

SARPN acknowledges the DEC website as the source of this report: http://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/PNADK419.pdf
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Executive Summary

This report provides a case study of a process to bring key technical sectors together with communities in a partnership for reducing food insecurity among HIV-affected households in Tororo, Uganda. Food security is the ability of individuals to consume sufficient quantity and quality of food to meet their daily needs. Food security depends on the availability of food, physical and economic access to it, and the physiological utilization of nutrients.

Although knowledge and technologies exist in Uganda to better enable households to be food secure, agricultural sector programs are not promoting them as effectively as they could. Likewise, programs exist in the health and social welfare sectors to support HIV-affected households, but these do not generally incorporate the kinds of nutritional and agricultural know-how required to meet affected households’ food security needs.

In response to these gaps, the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO), the AIDS Support Organization (TASO), and the International Center for Research on Women, with support from the Horizons Program of Population Council, implemented the Partners for Food Security (PAFOSE) Project to improve household food security in rural Ugandan communities affected by HIV/AIDS. Its overall aim was to address the complexities of food insecurity and HIV/AIDS by forging partnerships across institutions at the district, sub-county1, and local levels.

The case study is based on project documents and qualitative interviews and focus group discussions conducted in May and September 2006 with PAFOSE Project participants. The partnership process described in this report involved engaging stakeholders at the district, sub-county, and community levels in a participatory training program in which participants developed a core set of partnership principles and built their capacity for working collaboratively across technical sectors. They also analyzed the key facilitators and obstacles to household food security and designed a set of social and technical interventions to address these obstacles.

Prior to the PAFOSE Project, technical sub-county extension agents (agricultural, health, and community development) had limited access to farmers. Because there is only one agricultural extension agent per sub-county2 they have been unable to reach all households needing agricultural advisory services, especially those too stressed by illness or poverty to attend meetings in the sub-county center, where most extension activities are held. In addition, extension staff’s ability to follow up on trainings, to make sure that technical information is understood and implementation problems are addressed, has been limited due to lack of sufficient numbers of trained personnel. By teaming with TASO AIDS community workers (ACWs) and other skilled resource persons who live in the communities they serve, extension agents’ work with farmers has been enhanced and extended. In this way, PAFOSE functions to create a multiplier effect, such that the farmers’ groups are no longer dependent on just one or two sub-county extension agents, but have expertise much closer to home.

Another of PAFOSE’s key innovations has been to use registered farmers’ groups as the entry point for TASO ACWs. Prior to the PAFOSE Project, ACWs held open meetings to educate community membersabout HIV/AIDS and encourage uptake of voluntary HIV testing and counseling. Overall, attendance was sporadic, making it difficult for ACWs to develop the long-term relationships with communities necessary for increasing awareness about risk behaviors, shifting community norms about gender and sexuality, reducing stigma, and mobilizing support for HIV testing. In contrast, the farmers’ groups provide TASO with a way to build the long-term relationships and trust they need within the broader community to discuss sensitive issues. Therefore coordinated extension has emerged as mutually beneficial for TASO, technical extension staff, and farmers.

Between April 2004 and May 2006 the PAFOSE district management team developed and implemented four sets of participatory training workshops which focused on:
  • Principles of partnership (April 2004)
  • Technical skills and knowledge sharing (June 2004)
  • Detailed analysis of the causes of food insecurity in Tororo (March and April 2005)
  • Identifying technical food security interventions with farmers’ groups (April 2006)
These workshops resulted in improved management capacity and more collaborative organizational structures among the district partners. This in turn created the conditions for the ACWs and other field partners to work more effectively together with farmers’ groups at the local level to identify and address constraints to food security.

Four key findings emerge from the case study analysis, which provide valuable lessons for future interventions of this kind:
  1. Inter-sectoral partnerships between organizations to link and leverage different sets of skills for common goals is feasible and practical. It is important that management capacity for partnership be built at all institutional levels, and that the process be participatory.
  2. The coordination of agricultural extension and HIV/AIDS education and awareness can enhance the outcomes of both sets of activities.
  3. Farmers’ groups provide a non-stigmatizing context for conducting HIV/AIDS education, information, and sensitization activities.
  4. Men and women are willing to change negative gender-related attitudes and behaviors when they understand, in terms that relate directly to their own experience, how gender inequality perpetuates household food insecurity.

Footnotes:
  1. In Uganda, a sub-district is called a "sub-county."
  2. Sub-county populations in Tororo range from 25,000–30,000 people.


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