Africa Asia Middle East Français Português Subscribe IRIN Site Map
Global HIV/AIDS news and analysis
Advanced search
 Tuesday 30 October 2007
Weekly reports 
In-Depth reports 
Country profiles 
Fact files 
Really Simple Syndication Feeds 
About PlusNews 
Contact PlusNews 
Print report
SWAZILAND: Helping orphans help themselves

Photo: WFP/Richard Lee
With the highest HIV prevalence rate in the world, Swaziland has a rapidly growing population of OVCs
LUBOMBO, 29 May 2007 (IRIN) - Twelve-year-old Nhlanhla Matsebula, one of Swaziland’s growing number of children orphaned by AIDS, has good reason to feel proud. He has mastered the skill of ploughing a field with a team of oxen and in doing so, saved his late parents’ farm from being taken.

A boy like Nhlanhla would normally follow a plough driven by his father, dropping seeds into the furrows. But their parents left little behind besides land and the children faced eviction from a farm that had been their family home for generations.

“Swazi culture says that the right to occupy land depends on use. There is a lot of population pressure for land, and these AIDS orphans stand to lose their homes and their inheritance because they cannot work the fields,” said Lydia Mtembu, a community facilitator, as local volunteers who monitor the status of orphans and vulnerable children are called. Mtembu stops by to see Nhlanhla and Thembi at least twice a week.

Lacking any farming or agricultural skills, Nhlanhla, who lives on the farm with his younger sister, Thembi, has been unable to put the land to use and the farm has been unproductive for years. They had received help with their school fees from the government, their medical needs had ben attended to by the Red Cross, and food aid was provided by the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP).

But now a new programme launched by WFP is teaching these children to help themselves. Through the Junior Farmer Field and Life Schools programme, “we are targeting orphans and vulnerable children, teaching them agricultural projects, life skills, and general maintenance of self,” WFP programme director for the project, Andrew Ngwenya, told IRIN/PlusNews. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Population Fund and the Ministry of Agriculture also contribute to the programme.

“The project is geared toward keeping the children on their farms, to make them productive, so they won’t lose their inheritance,” Ngwenya added.

Children attend classes on weekends, apart from their usual schoolwork. They are taught conservation agriculture, including crop rotation to avoid soil nutrient depletion and soil erosion prevention, poultry farming, vegetable cultivation, and livestock breeding. “The ages of the children in the classes is 12 to 17 - they learn by doing. That’s the theme of the project,” Ngwenya commented.

“Some of the adult farmers should be taking these classes. The kids are getting a very good grounding in agriculture. They are learning a farm isn’t just a place to feed a family, but it can be a business where farmers make money and serve the nation,” said Hanson Dlamini, a field officer from the ministry of agriculture.

The pilot phase of the programme started in early 2007 at five locations benefiting 125 orphans and vulnerable children and is set to expand to 500 sites, assisting over 1,000 children. But much remains to be done to dent the huge population of vulnerable children.

According to UNICEF there will be 120,000 children orphaned by AIDS by 2010, the equivalent of 10 percent of the population. “By 2010, we hope to have worked with over 45,000 orphans and vulnerable children,” said Ngwena.

Meanwhile, Nhlanhla aims to turn the farm around. As he steers the four massive oxen and plough blade with great concentration, Thembi follows behind on this practice run, pretending to drop seeds into the exposed earth. The children will plough their small field for real when spring rains come, usually in October or November.


Theme(s): (IRIN) Children, (IRIN) Food Security, (IRIN) HIV/AIDS (PlusNews)


[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
Print report
FREE Subscriptions
Your e-mail address:

Submit your request
 More on Swaziland
SWAZILAND: Food or biofuel seems to be the question
AFRICA: Slum Survivors - new IRIN film released
SWAZILAND: Coping strategies wear thin in ongoing food crisis
SOUTHERN AFRICA: Struggling with soaring cereal prices
AFRICA: First global Arms Trade Treaty would particularly benefit Africa, experts say
 More on Children
HORN OF AFRICA: IRIN-HOA Weekly Round-up 403 for 20 - 26 October 2007
BURKINA FASO: Sanitation shambles
CHAD: French NGO accused of trafficking children
GHANA: Food shortages follow drought, floods
WEST AFRICA: New approach to malaria recommended
Back | Home page

Services:  Africa | Asia | Middle East | Radio | Film & TV | Photo | E-mail subscription
Feedback · E-mail Webmaster · IRIN Terms & Conditions · Really Simple Syndication News Feeds · About PlusNews · Bookmark PlusNews · Donors

Copyright © IRIN 2007
This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States. Republication is subject to terms and conditions as set out in the IRIN copyright page.