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FAO recognizes that HIV/AIDS is eroding food security, ravaging rural livelihoods and exacerbating poverty. If left unchecked, the epidemic risks undermining all efforts aimed at achieving the Millennium Development Goals of halting the HIV/AIDS epidemic and halving the number of poor and hungry in the world by 2015.

The Integrated Support to Sustainable Development and Food Security Programme (IP) was initiated in 1998 with funding from the governments of Norway and Finland. In its current phase, which is funded by Norway, it has recently focused on an interdisciplinary investigation of the impacts of the HIV/AIDS pandemic on agricultural production and food security, with the goal of identifying possible response strategies for the agricultural sector.

Substantial fieldwork has been carried out with partners in Namibia, Uganda and Zambia. Case studies from these countries illustrate how the epidemic affects different aspects of rural livelihoods, and point to the implications for the policy environment. The Namibian case study demonstrates the importance of protecting property rights following the death of a spouse in the context of increasing numbers of female- and youth-headed households. In Zambia, the uneven distribution of wealth between male- and female-headed households with AIDS orphans is examined from a gender equality perspective. In Uganda, the impacts of the epidemic on households that are pursuing different livelihoods are considered in the policy context of the Plan for the Modernization of Agriculture.

As a response to this research, a few pilot activities have been initiated. In Uganda, HIV/AIDS-responsive practices are being mainstreamed into the agricultural extension services. Pilot activities in Zambia are focusing on improving household food security and nutrition, and in Namibia, on the prevention of property grabbing or asset stripping.

FAO’s Gender and Population Division (SDW) serves as the Organization’s focal point for both gender and HIV/AIDS, and is responsible for coordinating the interdivisional IP programme. We are committed to following up on this innovative IP research and response strategies in collaboration with partners inside and outside FAO.

FAO hopes that this report will strengthen the knowledge base of the interlinkages among gender, HIV/AIDS and food security in rural areas and that other development partners will find the lessons informative and useful in their multi-sectoral fight against HIV/AIDS.

22 November 2003

Sissel Ekaas
Director Gender and Population Division
Chair IP Programme Implementation Task Force

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