|HIV/AIDS and Agriculture: An FAO Perspective (UNAIDS - Best Practice Digest, 2000, 3 p.)|
For further information on AIDS and agriculture, contact: Jacques du Guerny (Focal Point on HIV/AIDS), Chief, Population Programme Service, FAO. Fax: +39 06 570 55490. E-mail: Jacques.duGuerny@fao.org
Extracted from activity brief HIV/AIDS and Agriculture: An FAO Perspective.
The HIV/AIDS pandemic is perceived by FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations) as a problem of critical importance for development in general, rather than simply as a health issue. FAO activities are motivated by increasing evidence that HIV/AIDS, especially in Africa, intensifies existing labour bottlenecks in agriculture; increases widespread malnutrition; adds to the problems of rural women, especially farm households run by women, arising from gender division of labour and land rights/resources.
So HIV/AIDS related activities conducted by FAO focus on two aspects of the pandemic:
· The impact of HIV/AIDS on food security and agricultural development
· The response of rural populations and institutions at local, national and international levels to the challenges of the HIV/AIDS pandemic
FAO activities concerning HIV/AIDS
FAO first studied the impact of HIV/AIDS on agricultural production and food security of both small farm households and commercial farmers; for example, The effects of HIV/AIDS on farming systems in Eastern Africa (FAO, 1995) and Impact du VIH/SIDA sur les systs d'exploitations agricoles en Afrique de l'Ouest. (FAO, 1997).
A study of the impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic on commercial agricultural production in two districts of Kenya was carried out by FAO, upon the request of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Findings of the study revealed that the commercial agriculture sector of Kenya is particularly susceptible to the epidemic and is facing a severe social and economic crisis due to its impact. Morbidity and mortality due to HIV/AIDS significantly raise the industry's direct costs (medical and funeral expenses) as well as indirect costs through the loss of valuable skills and experience. So the epidemic adversely affects the companies' efficiency and productivity, and coping strategies aimed at reducing the costs often prevail over strategies aimed at HIV/AIDS prevention. The report HIV/AIDS and the Commercial Agricultural Sector of Kenya: Impact, Vulnerability, Susceptibility and Coping Strategies has recently been published.
After studying the impacts of the epidemic, FAO has been examining the possible responses from the agricultural sector. The FAO/UNAIDS joint publication Sustainable Agricultural/Rural Development and Vulnerability to HIV/AIDS focuses, through case studies of projects, on the linkages between the epidemic and socio-economic, demographic and socio-cultural factors which may enhance or discourage risk behaviour. The study illustrates that vulnerability to poverty, food/livelihood insecurity, gender inequalities, migration, war and civil conflict has a catalytic effect on people's vulnerability to HIV. Thus the challenges brought about by the HIV pandemic have to be taken into account when outlining and implementing agricultural and rural development programmes.
As a member of the Inter-Agency Advisory Group (IAAG), FAO has actively promoted IAAG's moving beyond a sole focus on medical issues and towards looking at the socio-economic dimensions of the pandemic, particularly in rural areas. FAO has participated in several inter-sectoral AIDS related conferences and has produced a number of papers on these themes. Awareness-raising activities
An inter-divisional Informal Working Group on HIV/AIDS has been set up within FAO, mainly to create a forum in which interested persons from the various technical and operational divisions of FAO could exchange information and discuss the implications of the epidemic on agricultural development and rural livelihoods.
In a separate note on Population and gender in rural societies, FAO comments that the HIV/AIDS has a different impact on each gender according to their role in the household and community. The sickness and death of working adults affect the total labour available in a farm household and its division between adults and children, as well as between men and women. According to the gender system in rural communities, women, who are the traditional care givers, spend a considerable amount of time taking care of the AIDS patients. This reduces the amount of time they can give to specific agricultural tasks.
In many patrilineal African communities, the cultural custom of
levirat dictates that when a woman is widowed, she has to remarry one of her
husband's brothers. This custom allows the woman to continue having access to
land and food security, otherwise she has to leave the lineage on her husband's
death. With the AIDS epidemic, this custom has multiplied the risk of spreading
the disease, given that the husband might have died from AIDS. Addressing the
inequalities in access to land by men and women (and not only the levirat
custom) will have a positive effect on limiting the spread of