Kwanalu commercial farmers' perceptions of and management responses to the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
In South Africa commercial agriculture employs approximately 8.5% of the national workforce. Therefore, information about commercial farmers’ perceptions of and management responses to the HIV/AIDS pandemic are likely to be of interest to policy makers and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in the health sector, as well as practitioners in rural development and commercial agriculture. HIV/AIDS affects businesses such as commercial farms by decreasing productivity, increasing costs and therefore decreasing overall profitability. Farm business’ responses to the challenges posed by HIV/AIDS may advantage or disadvantage farm workers. For example, farm workers are highly vulnerable to burden-shifting activities (practices which reduce the cost of HIV/AIDS to the employer, such as the outsourcing of low-skilled jobs). However, farm businesses may also play a substantial role (e.g., by providing formal adult education or access to clinics) in addressing the HIV/AIDS epidemic in rural commercial farming areas of KwaZulu-Natal and in South Africa generally. This study presents an analysis of KwaZulu-Natal commercial farmers’ perceptions of and management responses to the HIV/AIDS pandemic. This analysis identifies the farm, business and personal characteristics of the various respondents. It is important to know this information because it assists in understanding why commercial farmers are responding as they are, which will in turn assist in future HIV/AIDS policy planning. The analysis is based on a postal census survey of Kwanalu (KwaZulu-Natal Agricultural Union) commercial farmer members in April and May 2007. Results suggest that, on average, Kwanalu members are highly concerned about the impact of HIV/AIDS on their businesses. A majority of respondents perceived HIV/AIDS to negatively affect the current and future profitability of farming, increase labour absenteeism and staff turnover rates, and reduce labour productivity. An analysis of variance (ANOVA) of the data shows that respondents’ management responses to the HIV/AIDS pandemic varied by farm size and enterprise type, but include paying higher than average wage rates to attract and retain healthy and productive workers, multi-skilling staff to provide back-up skills, and mechanisation to defer costs of HIV/AIDS. Respondents tended to believe that effective HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention programmes require an integrated approach between government, employers and employees. Two response indexes were calculated: (1) ranking by adopters only (only those who use a certain response are included) and (2) ranking by all respondents (a response is not used by a respondent automatically scores zero). The response indexes showed that resource-intensive HIV/AIDS services such as provision of antiretrovirals (ARVs) and nutritional supplements are ranked high by actual adopters, but relatively low overall (as only a small proportion of respondents are adopting these strategies) in the ranking by all respondents. Burden-shifting practices (e.g. mechanisation) are ranked relatively high in both rankings, indicating that respondents rate them as important in managing HIV/AIDS, and that many respondents are utilising them. Relatively inexpensive HIV/AIDS services (e.g. informal communication) are ranked low by actual adopters but high on the overall index as many respondents are using them (but doubt their effectiveness). A linear regression analysis was conducted on principal components from the response indexes to identify characteristics of “high” and “low” responders and of those who utilise burden shifting activities or HIV/AIDS services. The characteristics of “high” responders are that they perceive HIV/AIDS to impact on costs; they employ a high proportion of skilled labour; and they have high turnovers and high debt servicing obligations. Responders who employ large amounts of labour (particularly permanent labour); who perceive HIV/AIDS as the responsibility of the employer; who are older and more experienced; and who have a relatively high debt: asset ratio tend to use HIV/AIDS services to manage the impacts of HIV/AIDS. Many respondents already play an important but inexpensive role in HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment through encouraging voluntary HIV testing and providing staff with information and transport to clinics. Policy makers should take this into consideration when formulating HIV/AIDS policies to combat the pandemic.
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