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FAO Press Release 02/09

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FAO Regional Conferences 2002

Cairo, 5 February 2002. - With HIV/AIDS threatening the lives and livelihood of millions of rural people and jeopardizing rural development across Africa, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today stressed the need to strengthen the fight against the debilitating disease at its 22nd Regional Conference for Africa, meeting in Cairo 4-8 February.

The epidemic has taken a heavy toll on the agricultural labour force. Some 7 million agricultural workers have already died from the disease in sub-Saharan Africa and another 20 million could die before 2020.

In addition to decimating the agricultural labour force, AIDS also undermines agricultural productivity, as families are often forced to sell productive assets to pay for medical care and funerals, compromising long-term development. As a result, AIDS is a threat both to food security and rural development.

Representatives from 52 African member countries of FAO will also discuss issues related to land and water resources, food security, fisheries, gender, sustainable rural development, and questions of common interest related to agricultural development.

In particular, African experts are examining the decisions taken earlier this year in Lome, Togo by African agriculture ministers on preparations for a common agricultural market for Africa, which they expect would create new opportunities for intra-African trade in agricultural crops, livestock and fisheries products.

The Conference discussed the development of fisheries and aquaculture, which contribute significantly to food security in many African regions, has been hindered in recent years by ineffective policies, inadequate public and private sector investments and inefficient research and extension programs. The Cairo meeting will review ways and means to address these vital concerns, while encouraging private investment.

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