The mandate of extension services, whether public or private, has always been rural human resources development with an aim to increase food production through the introduction of improved agricultural technology. The very survival of these human resources, both within the extension organization and among the clientele, however, is currently at stake due to the HIV/AIDS menace. Urgent and major efforts are needed by the extension services to prepare themselves for battle against the epidemic, to educate the farming population about the disease, and to develop new strategies, methodologies, materials, technology and equipment to serve the extension needs of thousands of new entrants in farming. The most meaningful role the extension services can play is in strengthening the prevention of further spread of HIV infections by educating men and women farmers on the subject, and by demonstrating the relationship between the epidemic and food security. This is the time when both public and private extension institutions ought to broaden their scope of work beyond transfer of agricultural technology and consider integrating environment, population, and HIV/AIDS education into ongoing agricultural extension programmes, with a view to the sustainable livelihoods of rural people.
This paper is a slightly modified and updated version of an article, authored by M. Kalim Qamar, FAO Senior Officer for Agricultural Training and Extension, which was published in a journal in 2001*. The re-publication of the article, along with pictures, was considered appropriate in view of the importance of the subject as well as in the interest of wider circulation among the member countries.
* M. K. Qamar, The HIV/AIDS epidemic: An unusual challenge to agricultural extension services in sub-Saharan Africa, Journal of Agricultural Education and Extension (2001, 8, 1, pp 1-11).
Extension, Education and Communication Service
FAO headquarters, Rome