Brigid Letty (Prolinnova–South Africa)
Greetings! My name is Brigid Letty and I work in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security with the Institute of Natural Resources (INR) in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu Natal (KZN) Province of South Africa. I am an animal scientist with a focus on rural development, having worked in the Farming Systems Research Section at the provincial department of agriculture for six years before moving to the INR. Currently, I am the programme coordinator for Prolinnova–South Africa and also coordinate the HAPID initiative. I am also involved with various other agricultural development projects at the INR.
During the Prolinnova International Partners Meeting in Senegal in March 2007, I joined the small-group discussion about the impact of HIV/AIDS on research and development activities, because HIV/AIDS is a very serious problem in South Africa and is a factor we need to consider carefully when planning and implementing research and development activities. I presented a drawing made by a community group in Msinga, KZN Province, that was involved in research by a postgraduate student (Kees Swaans) based at Farmer Support Group, the outreach arm of the Centre for Environment, Agriculture and Development at the University of KZN. The drawing illustrated a range of direct and indirect effects of AIDS on rural households (see Figure 1). This picture provided a basis for the Senegal small-group discussion. We then talked about the opportunities that local/participatory innovation offers to assist communities to cope with HIV/AIDS. One person in the discussion group, Romuald Rutazihana from VETAID–Mozambique, pointed out that households affected by HIV/AIDS have already developed many coping mechanisms which could be seen as local innovation.
Figure 1: Msinga community group’s illustration of the impact of HIV/AIDS
(Source: Kees Swaans & Michael Malinga, Farmer Support Group, 2006)
After the Senegal meeting, on returning to our respective countries, the small group, led by Romuald, developed a concept note for a HAPID (HIV/AIDS and PID) sub-project. We all worked together on this proposal, with feedback from members of the Prolinnova International Support Team (IST). We circulated the concept note within our country platforms. The Farmer Support Group opted to be the implementing organisation for the HIV/AIDS-related work in South Africa and developed the proposal further. In November 2007, I agreed to take over responsibilities for international coordination of HAPID, as Mozambique was not yet formally a Country Platform (CP) in Prolinnova and Romuald had more difficult access to the Internet for communication.
I look forward to working with the three CPs in Ghana, Mozambique and South Africa, the IST and the external members of the HAPID team in developing our understanding of the implications of HIV/AIDS for Participatory Innovation Development (PID) and the opportunities that PID offers for organisations working with HIV/AIDS-affected households.
Romuald Rutazihana (Prolinnova–Mozambique)
Greetings! I am Romuald Rutazihana, a veterinarian and Rwandan citizen, living and working in Mozambique since 1998. For the last ten years or so, I’ve been working in development projects in rural communities.
2002–03: VETAID-Mozambique in partnership with Swazi Red Cross implemented a pilot project “HIV/AIDS Impact Mitigation through Community Livestock Development” to support HIV/AIDS-affected Swazi households. I implemented the project on the VETAID side. This income- and food-generating project distributed chickens and promoted balanced nutrition among HIV/AIDS-infected people.
2003–04: I worked for a Mozambican NGO Kulima in formulation (and sometimes implementation) of several projects and activities related to HIV/AIDS: Awareness on HIV/AIDS and Impact Mitigation Projects (chicken and goat keeping; small-scale gardening).
Since 2004, I have been working once again for VETAID in a Food Security Project in the Mozambican Province of Gaza. The project has a goat restocking component for vulnerable people, most of them HIV-affected households. Gaza Province has the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rate in the country: 27% (national average rate is 16%).
Along with this project, I have always been associated directly or indirectly with implementation of other VETAID HIV/AIDS impact-mitigation projects or activities in other provinces.
In 2007, on behalf of Prolinnova–Mozambique, I played an active role in the elaboration of the Prolinnova HIV/AIDS proposal. In December 2007, Prolinnova–Mozambique appointed me to coordinate this project in the country.
“Rather die of AIDS in five or ten years’ time than dying of starvation in a couple of days or weeks”. Whenever I see poor young women selling sex, I always remember these words shouted by a Rwandan teenager girl to her mother who was opposing her marriage to a rich seropositive widower. It was in 1995 in refugee camp in Eastern Zaire. Poor living conditions are actually fuelling HIV/AIDS pandemic!
Ann Waters-Bayer (Prolinnova International Support Team)
Greetings! My name is Ann Waters-Bayer and I am a Canadian-Dutch agricultural sociologist working since 1989 with ETC Foundation in the Netherlands. Up to 1995 I was network facilitator and publications coordinator in the Information Centre for Low-External-Input and Sustainable Agriculture (ILEIA). I then moved within ETC to the land-use management group, now called EcoCulture. I work mainly on issues of natural resource management, especially in pastoral areas, and participatory research and development by rural people, development workers and scientists in Africa. I am a member of the International Support Team for Prolinnova, and give special attention as advisor to the Country Platforms in Ethiopia, Kenya and South Africa. ETC EcoCulture hosts the Prolinnova International Secretariat.
As advisor in socio-institutional and gender issues for the Pastoral Community Development Project in Ethiopia, I have explored the impact of HIV/AIDS on pastoral communities and co-authored an overview (“Ethiopian pastoralists and HIV/AIDS: few facts, many fears and a glimmer of hope”, see publications) for an FAO/ILRI meeting on this topic. I am also member of a small group looking at HIV/AIDS-related issues as part of the ELD network on endogenous development by livestock-keepers.
I look forward to learning together with all the participants in the HAPID (HIV/AIDS and PID) study being carried out initially in Ghana, Mozambique and South Africa and hope that we can find ways to contribute to improving the lives of local people faced with the threat and reality of HIV/AIDS.
Chesha Wettasinha (Prolinnova International Support Team)
Greetings! My name is Chesha Wettasinha and I am a Sri Lankan with a background in tropical agriculture. I have been working with ETC Foundation for the past 15 years. From 1993 to 2000, I was part of the Promoting Multifunctional Household Environments (PMHE) project team that was engaged in seeking strategies for farmer-led agricultural development with small farmers in an irrigated settlement scheme in Sri Lanka. In 2001, I joined the editorial team of the LEISA magazine at the Information Centre for Low External Input and Sustainable Agriculture (ILEIA) and moved to the Netherlands. Since 2004, I have been a member of the International Support Team of Prolinnova, the Secretariat of which is hosted by ETC EcoCulture.
Whilst working with small farmers and communities, I have seen how agricultural practices can influence human health both positively and negatively. I have also seen how the innovativeness and creativity of local people helps them to find solutions to their problems, to cope with their circumstances and to be resilient in the face of crises.
I am certain that the HAPID study now starting in three countries – Ghana, South Africa and Mozambique – will help us to identify the creative ways in which local people are dealing with HIV/AIDS, learn together with them and find ways of improving their lives and livelihoods.
Carolien Aantjes (ETC Crystal)
Greetings! My name is Carolien Aantjes and I work for ETC Crystal, a unit within ETC Foundation that focuses on public health. This unit functions as an advisory group working mainly on short-term assignments, whereas ETC EcoCulture, the unit which serves as the international secretariat of Prolinnova, functions as an NGO involved mainly in longer-term partnership projects. My field of expertise is HIV/AIDS programming and mainstreaming and dates back to the time that I did my practicals as a student nurse in Zambia, in 1995. I was involved in a Home Based Care programme for people living with HIV and AIDS and a couple of years later I coordinated the multi-sectoral response to HIV and AIDS in one of Namibia’s vast regions.
On my return to the Netherlands in 2001, I obtained a Masters degree in Public Health and started working as an international consultant. In addition to this, I worked as public health nurse in Amsterdam, where I counselled and tested people for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. I developed a particular interest for the response to HIV and AIDS in the workplace and assisted a considerable number of Dutch development organisations as well as African and Asian NGOs in setting up and implementing this response. In the acknowledgment that HIV is a development issue, these responses were not limited to the workplace but also looked at ways to mainstream HIV and AIDS into the development work of these organisations. It is this work that enabled me to get acquainted with all sorts of organisations, beyond my ‘conventional clients’ who provide AIDS-specific services. It included organisations working in the field of agriculture and natural resource management; an area in which I had expert colleagues in other units in the ETC Foundation but whose work missed my eye and vice versa. Through the HAPID initiative, we will be able to link our different fields of expertise in support of our partner organisations. I look forward to a fruitful exchange and the opportunity to complement, where needed, your activities in Participatory Innovation Development with my HIV/AIDS-specific background.
Michael Loevinsohn (Applied Ecology Associates)
Greetings! I’m Michael Loevinsohn, an ecologist and epidemiologist – a Canadian, now living in the Netherlands. Threats to the health of people living from agriculture and the threats to health emerging from agriculture have held my interest for a good while. In the Philippines, I worked with rice farmers caught up in the Green Revolution. They were producing far more rice than they ever had but many doubted they were any better off. Pesticide poisoning was one of the stings in the tail: death rates among farmers increased by more than ¼. Dealing with that threat has required doctors and nurses to be able to recognize and treat pesticide poisoning but the most effective responses have come from agriculture: regulation of the pesticides being sold and, crucially, innovation by farmers who, through individual and collective action, have learned to grow their crop with much less pesticide, sometimes none at all.
I also worked on the relationship between malaria and agriculture and climate, in Rwanda and elsewhere in eastern Africa. For the past 7 or so years, I’ve been involved with HIV/AIDS and its links with rural livelihoods and food security in Africa and India. In many ways it’s been the most difficult of these different situations, not because the biology is so complex, more because some simple and glaring truths too easily get lost from view. Poverty and inequalities are at the heart of the epidemics. A poor, rural woman, with little else to market, sells sex to a man a bit better off who’s able to buy. Or she moves, alone, to a town, a plantation or a construction site where she thinks she can find work. Conventional prevention, preaching abstinence and condoms to her, is not nearly enough to help her avoid infection. She is where she is in part because of a failure of innovation: she was unable to make a decent living where she lived. Innovation in and around agriculture is also essential to the person living with HIV or AIDS who needs balanced nutrition, not just medicines, to keep the opportunistic infections at bay and to the widow or grandmother caring for orphans who must use fewer resources more efficiently.
In 2002, I helped found and coordinated RENEWAL (Regional Network on HIV/AIDS, Rural Livelihoods and Food Security) in eastern and southern Africa. Bringing people and organizations together from rural development and health/AIDS to promote mutual learning, action research and better policies is central to what RENEWAL is about. I imagine that we will be able to draw from and build on that experience, among others. I think what we are taking on is important and exciting. I look forward to working on it with you all.