Gregory Hazele is a team leader of the home-based care programme of Chikuni Parish in rural Zambia and one of the programme’s agricultural extension officers. Gregory was interviewed by Darrin Zammit Lupi.
From observation and experience within the parish, and I personally am one of the people who are living positively, AIDS is no longer as fearful as it was before, particularly before knowledge was imparted, before the formation of support groups where people could share their fears and anxieties, and before the admission of ARVs in the parish through Chikuni Mission Hospital. Today, so far, we have 969 people on ARVs and we are running to nearly 1,500 people in the support groups. So this kind of knowledge, this kind of interaction, has made AIDS not so fearful, especially in Chikuni Parish. In a sense, you can prove this because other HBC centres in Zambia are coming to visit our parish to dialogue with our clients, and to learn from us. We are becoming a model in society particularly in Chikuni and the surrounding parishes.
Chikuni covers a population of about 25,000 people, the majority of who are subsistence farmers. In Chikuni Parish, I am one of the people who are looking into a project of capacity building and empowerment. This project is basically trying to empower people at household level in order to improve their livelihood. What we have done so far is the distribution of seeds and some training to selected households in sustainable agriculture, which involves growing crops, animal rearing and gardening. We have started with gardens, for which we have given out seeds such as impwa, carrot and butter squash. Why these three varieties? These are the varieties we are very sure people will be able to grow and we have found a market for such kinds of crops and we expect people to sell them to big shops. We believe that education is the key to development, so before any project, we first give some kind of knowledge on how best to handle and manage the project.
We have other objectives such as increasing knowledge for the prevention of HIV in the community and building the capacity of the community to deal with the impact of HIV through home-based care, support committees and the involvement of PALS (the HBC support groups, which are called Positive and Living Squads) as key trainers. We are looking at how to reduce the stigma of HIV and AIDS through greater emphasis on the public health dangers of stigmatization and discrimination. Another objective is to strengthen our organisational capacity to manage and sustain development initiatives. And, finally, we are trying to increase food and water security to better assist people who are living positively, as well as our caregivers.