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Chapter 1: Introduction

The relationship among rural poverty, food insecurity, gender and HIV/AIDS is well documented (Barnett and Whiteside, 2002; White and Robinson, 2000). The majority of rural agricultural households in sub-Saharan Africa rely predominantly on human labour to perform agricultural tasks. HIV/AIDS tends to affect the most productive age group and is characterized by repeated periods of illness, which reduce labour available for agricultural and domestic tasks and increase medical expenditure. When the affected member dies, the rural household has to meet funeral expenses and the loss of knowledge, skills and - possibly - land and property (FAO, 2002). All of these mechanisms contribute towards increasing destitution, poverty and food insecurity. The extent and severity of the impact are influenced by gender roles, relative wealth, whether periods of sickness or death coincide with peak agricultural seasons, marriage and inheritance systems, and the level of institutional support for HIV/AIDS-affected households at the community level (CARE, 2001).

The relationships among HIV/AIDS, gender, food security and rural livelihoods have been explored in detail by FAO’s Integrated Support to Sustainable Development and Food Security Programme (IP) in Namibia, Zambia and Uganda, with funding from the Government of Norway. The IP is an interdivisional[2] programme coordinated by the Gender and Population Division (SDW) in FAO. The IP promotes integrated and collaborative approaches to sustainable development and food security, both within FAO and in partner countries. Since the programme’s inception in 1999, the IP partners - the Africa Institutional Management Services (AIMS) and the Ministry of Agriculture, water and Rural Development (MAWRD) in Namibia, the National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) and the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) in Uganda and the Farming System Association of Zambia (FASAZ) and the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (MACO) in Zambia - have developed strong platforms for interdisciplinary collaboration and have implemented a range of activities, including action-oriented research, awareness raising, capacity building and policy support.

In 2002, the partner countries agreed to focus on HIV/AIDS and agriculture as a common theme to be explored in 2002-2003. As a first step, baseline surveys were conducted to investigate the relationship between the HIV/AIDS epidemic and rural livelihoods in selected communities of Uganda, Zambia and Namibia. Data from the surveys have been used in the participatory design of local response strategies[3].

This report summarizes the results of the baseline surveys and reviews the country data, looking specifically at how policies and response strategies can affect the lives of HIV/AIDS-affected communities. Chapter 2 briefly explains the methodology and provides a glossary. Chapter 3 outlines the national context, stages of the epidemic and the current policy frameworks. The case studies presented in chapter 4 illustrate how different aspects of the epidemic affect rural livelihoods, and explores the implications for the policy environment. The Namibian case study looks at the importance of protecting property rights following the death of a spouse in the context of an increasing number of female- and youth-headed households. In Zambia, the uneven distribution of wealth between male- and female-headed households with AIDS orphans is examined, along with the consequences of gender inequality. In Uganda, the impacts of the epidemic on households that are pursuing different livelihoods are considered in light of the PMA. All case studies look briefly at national policies, particularly poverty reduction strategies, HIV/AIDS and gender policies, and consider whether they adequately reflect the new circumstances that HIV/AIDS brings. Chapter 5 looks at how to operationalize response strategies and gives examples of district-level activities implemented by IP partners.[4]

[2] An interdepartmental task force provides advice and technical support for the implementation of IP activities and is composed of technical staff from ten services within the Sustainable Development Department, the Agriculture Department and the Economic and Social Department of FAO. See
[3] The country survey reports can be found at
[4] Although the process of implementing policies and assessing human resources, institutional capacity and the role of the private sector is imperative in understanding the gap between policies and people, it is beyond the scope of this report.

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