HIV/AIDS & Natural Resource Management Linkages


Human Suffering HIV/AIDS The HIV/AIDS pandemic is having unprecedented and tragic impacts on all sectors of society in sub-Saharan Africa, causing untold human suffering, serious economic effects, and social distruption. It is also affecting the environment: there are very close linkages between HIV/AIDS, rural livelihoods, human capacity and conservation.

Since 2001, the Africa Biodiversity Collaborative Group(ABCG) has been working with partners in Eastern and Southern Africa to learn about the environmental impacts brought on by HIV/AIDS, and to identify and catalyze coping strategies for the conservation sector to reduce these impacts. Much of this work is done in collaboration with other sectors.

FY 2013 Activites & Accomplishments

In FY2013, following debilitating circumstances in the planned training workshops in South Sudan, ABCG with consultant Daulos Mauambeta shifted targets to carrying out similar work in collaboration with the Jane Goodall Institute in Western Tanzania. Following development of the training agenda and finalization of the ABCG HIV/AIDS and Conservation Manual, a workshop was held in early November in Kigoma, Tanzania. The workshop summary is archived under the newsletter: “Equipping Conservation Groups to Mitigate HIV and AIDS in the Workplace.

Further, ABCG members developed a manual on HIV/AIDS and the Environment: A Manual for Conservation Organizations on Impacts and Responses. The manual provides background information on the origin of HIV, the nature of AIDS and the AIDS epidemic. 

News and Resources

SCB-Africa 2011 Meeting: HIV/AIDS & Conservation

The 2nd Society for Conservation Biology (SCB) Africa Regional Meeting and the 48th global meeting for the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation was held June 12-16, 2011 in Arusha, Tanzania. ABCG and partners held two workshops and a symposium on addressing the interconnections between HIV/AIDS and conservation.

The first workshop, led by Guyo Roba of IUCN, shared lessons in IUCN's recent publication Interactions between HIV/AIDS and the Environment and facilitated a discussion among participants as to how to grow the network of conservation and health practitioners working on these issues and how to bring key lessons into the policy dialogue at multiple levels.

In the second workshop, Dr. Steven Kiruswa of the African Wildlife Foundation led participants through AWF's experience in Mainstreaming HIV/AIDS into NRM: AWF's AIDS Organizational Policy. Through this workshop, participants explored the components of an effective HIV/AIDS workplace policy, essential strategies for educating staff about resources available to them; and helpful linkages to providers of health care tools and family planning materials.

This symposium shared lessons learned on the connections between HIV/AIDS and conservation (impacts and mitigation), distributed resources such as the ABCG HIV/AIDS manual, the IUCN report on HIV/AIDS interactions and equiped participants with information, examples and resources on how conservation organizations can take action to reduce the impacts of HIV/AIDS on conservation.

Speakers representing many organizations and projects presented reports, projects and policies, including:

News and Resources

HIV/AIDS and Conservation: Impacts and Coping Strategies

The major environmental impacts are:

  • Loss of human capacity to AIDS: this is seriously affecting conservation and community-based natural resource management. For example, a local non-governmental organization (NGO) in Malawi lost 14% of its staff to AIDS since 1994. Conservation organizations are particularly at risk as staff are posted far away from their families in national parks and protected areas where they are more likely to engage in risky behaviors.
  • Increased use of natural resources: as AIDS-affected rural households lose salary earners and agricultural labor, many are turning to natural resources as the ultimate safety net. Activities such as hunting, fishing and charcoal making are increasing as families seek alternative livelihood means. Medicinal plant harvesting has increased to treat side effects of AIDS, and timber logging has accelerated in many areas to supply to growing coffin industry. These widely reported increases in resource use are often not sustainable and pose a long-term threat to community and ecological wellbeing.
  • Changes in land use: when traditional knowledge of natural resource management and local farming systems are lost, and when households are forced to change land use practices (e.g. growing less labor-intensive crops), land and resources are often used in less appropriate ways.  Problems with land tenure and land grabbing often occur when the male head of a household dies; in some societies widows and orphans cannot inherit land (either legally or customarily). Land-grabbing results in loss of livelihood base for the immediate surviving family members.

The possibility of future insecurity is a major concern: as AIDS orphans grow up they often have little indigenous knowledge, weak attachment to land and resources, and poor education. They and other disenfranchised people may turn to unsustainable fishing, hunting, logging and charcoal-making on a large scale, with serious impacts on the environment, local livelihoods, and long-term security. This is a particular concern given the correlation between demographic ‘youth bulges’ and increased likelihood of civil conflict (identified by Population Action International).

Examples of coping strategies identified for the conservation sector include:
  • Development of institutional HIV/AIDS policies and strategies to help both employers and employees in government parks and wildlife departments, NGOs, training institutions, donor agencies, and private sector companies. Policies by KwaZulu Natal Wildlife and the Wildlife & Environmental Society of Malawi can serve as models to other conservation organizations.
  • Adapting conservation training programs such as the development of special HIV/AIDS modules at the Southern African Wildlife College.
  • Working with local communities to find alternatives to unsustainable resource use and to develop natural resource-based micro-enterprises, e.g. promoting sound harvesting of medicinal plants, more efficient extraction of active ingredients, and encouraging cultivation of species that can be grown domestically.  Also promoting micro-enterprises with low labor requirements to relieve environmental pressures and support AIDS-affected communities (e.g. honey production, agroforestry, ecotourism).
  • Promoting HIV prevention and awareness in community partners: conservation organizations work with communities in remote areas with poor access to health services; they can facilitate HIV prevention and awareness by bringing health sector partners to the area, and mainstreaming HIV/AIDS into environmental awareness programs.
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