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In the early days of the global HIV epidemic, AIDS was believed to be mainly an urban problem. Today, AIDS threatens the lives and well-being of millions of rural people throughout the developing world. Africa, with its predominantly rural population, remains worst hit.

The illness and death caused by AIDS not only increase poverty and deepen food insecurity in rural communities affected by the epidemic, but they also devastate human resources. Teachers, doctors, nurses, police, and agricultural advisers are all among those affected, thus undermining the capacity of governments to respond adequately to the epidemic. The HIV epidemic therefore has wide-ranging implications for food security and rural development. A question repeatedly raised, yet not sufficiently addressed to date, is how can the agriculture sector contribute to the prevention and mitigation of HIV/AIDS?

This study is the first to examine the full range of implications of HIV/AIDS for ministries of agriculture in eastern and southern Africa. It analyses the effects of HIV/AIDS on both the staff and the clients of these ministries, and reviews responses developed so far. It proposes further ways of strengthening national capacity to address the food security challenges posed by the epidemic and to incorporate HIV/AIDS concerns into agricultural policies and programmes.

FAO and UNAIDS have repeatedly stressed that the vicious circle of poverty, hunger and AIDS will not be broken unless agricultural institutions intensify their efforts. At the World Food Summit: five years later held in Rome in June 2002, the FAO member countries reaffirmed their pledge to the fight against the devastating impact of HIV/AIDS on food security. Assisting governments, international bodies and civil society organizations with this task is key priority under the memorandum of understanding on joint action agreed between FAO and UNAIDS in December 2001. In publishing this volume, it is our hope to contribute to a better understanding of the effects of HIV/AIDS on agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa and assist ministries of agriculture to develop quality action programmes.

Jacques Diouf
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Peter Piot
Executive Director
Joint United Nations
Programme on HIV/AIDS

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