Rural livelihoods, HIV/AIDS, and agroforestry interventions: social science methods for addressing complex problems
Rural livelihoods, HIV/AIDS, and agroforestry interventions: social science methods for addressing complex problemswca2014-1221 Joleen Timko 1 2,* 1Forestry, UBC AFRICAD, Vancouver, Canada, 2ICRAF, Nairobi, Kenya
Social science methodologies have been lacking in the field of agroforestry, and this was apparent and admitted at ICRAFs Science Week in 2010. However, the value and contribution of social science methods to agroforestry research are powerful. The interdependent nature of people’s lives and livelihoods with forests and forest resources in developing countries cannot be adequately described and understood through the use of quantitative methods alone. Based on social science research I have been conducting in Malawi since 2010, I outline how the use of these methods have elucidated some of the key research questions I have been adressing within a broad field of study: the dependence of HIV/AIDS-affected households on forest resources, and agroforestry interventions and innovations for meeting their forest resource needs. I begin by summarising an exploratory study whose data were collected using focus groups and semi-structured interviews with local respondents in four Malawian study sites. This study characterised how household dependence on the most important forest resources (firewood, medicinal plants) changed through three phases: the period before HIV became a problem in the household, the period during HIV-related morbidity, and after AIDS-related mortality. It also identified a range of local forest-related coping strategies being used to alleviate the HIV/AIDS burden on their households, and agroforestry interventions that local people would like to try. I provide preliminary results from my current research assessing the socio-economic impacts of several of these agroforestry interventions, and highlight potential social science research that could assess other interventions. Throughout the presentation, I will stress the key contributions that social science methods have made to this globally-relevant research domain.