Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Master of Science




Rachel Bezner Kerr

2nd Supervisor

Isaac Luginaah

Joint Supervisor


Many rural Malawians experience food insecurity, attributed to a number of factors including poverty, climate change, structural adjustment, poor governance and the impacts of HIV/AIDS. The prevalence of HIV/AIDS is currently estimated at 11% amongst adults. To address food insecurity in Northern Malawi, the Soils, Food and Health Communities (SFHC) agroecological project was implemented in 2000. In 2006, the project began to focus some of its program on farmers living with HIV/AIDS, but the impact of this shift has not been studied. There are few studies examining the potential for agricultural interventions to address the food security needs of AIDS-affected households. To fill this gap, this study examines how the SFHC agroecological intervention impacted HIV/AIDS-affected households. Using a feminist political ecology approach, I collected and analysed data from participant observation, visual diagramming with focus groups (n=6) and in-depth interviews (n=63). The findings suggest that SFHC agroecological methods contribute to increased crop yields, labour relief, income generation, networking and dietary diversity. Yet, household poverty, ongoing impacts of HIV/AIDS, gender inequalities and abuse, the high number of dependents per household, and other competing agricultural interventions undermine the intervention’s potential to improve food production and food security. In conclusion, I recommend gender equality advocacy, collaboration of competing interventions, HIV/AIDS burden-sensitive, and holistic program modifications aimed at addressing the factors that are inhibiting HIV/AIDS-affected households’ food security improvement.