HIV/AIDS, artisanal fishing and food security in the Okavango Delta, Botswana
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Generally, rural households pursue all year round natural and non-natural resource-based livelihood systems to diversify these options in order to cope with risks emanating from a range of shocks and stressors. Artisanal fishing in the Delta is not only a major livelihood option but also a source of food security. This paper is based on analysis of primary data collected from a survey of 248 subsistence fishers’ households through simple random sampling in 22 villages in the Delta. The overall objectives of the survey were to assess the general prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the Ngamiland district of Botswana, to investigate potential effects of AIDS-related stressors, particularly chronic illness on artisanal fishing activities, and to assess implications towards food security. Results from this study indicate that HIV prevalence rates for pregnant women attending antenatal clinics in the Delta are approximately 30% and are related to factors such as marriage, education, and employment. Despite this relatively high prevalence percentage, most of the affected households do not have adequate access to HIV/AIDS support facilities. Support services are provided on the basis of population size and/or status of the settlement (i.e. urban, urban village, rural or remote). Therefore, since about 50% of the Delta’s population lives in settlements of less than 500 people, they receive health services indirectly through major population centres whose capacity to deliver timely HIV/AIDS services is limited. This disproportionate access to HIV/AIDS services disadvantages the majority of fishing communities in the Delta, and may affect their ability to fish. Moreover, about 53% of sampled households had cared for a continuously ill person/s (CIP’s) in the last 5 years, out of which approximately 29% felt that this seriously impacted fishing activities. These serious impacts included sale of family assets, depletion of savings, and switching or abandoning fishing activities. Subsequently, household food security is seriously affected because fish provides a significant proportion of food to CIP households where approximately 55% of households get their food from fish products. During food shortages, CIP households resorted to a hierarchy of strategies which included cutting down on meals or reducing meal portions, looking for paid work, gathering wild fruit, asking for food from relatives, selling livestock, and getting social assistance. In conclusion, artisanal fishing is a natural safety net which constitutes an important buffer for households affected by HIV/ AIDS-related stressors in the Okavango Delta. Access to fish helps these households mitigate potentially adverse impacts such as deterioration into chronic poverty.
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