Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page


Agricultural extension services cannot and should not be expected to put an end to HIV/AIDS. This is not their main mandate. However, apart from the ongoing debate on the effectiveness of extension services in Africa and the needed measures to reform them, the fact remains that these are the only organizations whose field staff are very familiar with rural life. They, therefore, can and should play a meaningful role in helping the farming communities for protection against AIDS. If they do not move fast, in collaboration with other relevant institutions, to properly respond to the increasing impact of HIV/AIDS on the overall farming situation in general and on their own weakening organizational capacity in particular, the consequences could be disastrous and far reaching.

The negative effects may emerge in a logical sequence. Extension organizations that are already weak in most of Africa may almost collapse due to shortage of manpower and fall of morale in the absence of a viable strategy. The near-complete loss of technical guidance that extension agents could potentially provide through thoughtfully prepared strategy would throw the new and inexperienced children, elderly persons and widow farmers at the mercy of nature. Poor farming practices and neglected farms would eventually lead to lower crop yields, reduction in farmers’income, increase in risks of food shortages and famine, and drag the rural population into even deeper poverty resulting in more deaths and more human misery. This in turn could result in a mass exodus of villagers to urban areas or elsewhere in search of food, jobs and escape from HIV/AIDS. It would not be surprising if such factors eventually lead to a higher rate of crimes and political unrest.

M. Marzot/FAO/17121

Due to parent’s death, young children have to struggle for survival

The possible consequences of delayed action could be horrendous. It is imperative that public and private extension organizations, governments, donor agencies and international development bodies draw appropriate strategies to cope with the situation, and the sooner the better.

Previous Page Top of Page Next Page