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2. The impact of HIV/AIDS on agricultural production: effects at the household level

2. The impact of HIV/AIDS on agricultural production: effects at the household level

The detrimental impact that HIV/AIDS may have on rural households' productive capacity has been explored in studies in eastern Africa. The earlier paper (quoted above) suggests that the effects of HIV/AIDS are felt on two key farm production parameters. First, household labour quality and quantity are reduced, initially in terms of productivity when the HIV-infected person is ill, and later the supply of household labour falls with the death of that person. Moreover, the probability that more than one adult per family is infected is high, given the heterosexual nature of HIV transmission in Africa. A compounding factor is that infection rates are higher among women, who account for 70 percent of the agricultural labour force and 80 percent of food production. In addition, other household members will devote productive time to caring for the sick persons and traditional mourning customs, which can last as long as 40 days for some family members, can adversely affect labour availability.

The second factor of household agricultural production that HIV/AIDS will affect is the availability of disposable cash income. During episodes of illness, household financial resources may be diverted to pay for medical treatment and eventually to meet funeral costs. Such resources may otherwise be used to purchase agricultural inputs, such as occasional extra labour or other complementary inputs (e.g. new seeds or plants, fertilizer, pesticides, etc.). Family assets (e.g. livestock) might be sold off.

If a household becomes unable to either supply such labour internally or hire temporary workers, the composition of crops may be gradually altered, shifting from cash to subsistence crops in some cases. The key constraint will be during periods of peak labour demand, usually in planting and harvesting seasons. Given the nature of the rural labour market, these are also times when wages or opportunity costs are highest. Another response to labour shortages may be to reduce the area under cultivation. Furthermore, it is likely that livestock production may also be less intensive and that the farming quality will be affected with weeding and pruning activities curtailed. The shift from high labour-intensive crops to low labour-intensive crops will stop vegetable cultivation resulting in a less varied and less nutritious diet.

Labour-intensive farming systems with a low level of mechanization and agricultural input are particularly vulnerable to the impact of the disease. Some of the effects of labour shortage in full impact communities in Eastern Africa are:

The results and findings of FAO's activities carried out in eastern Africa reveal that the impact of HIV/AIDS on agricultural production systems and rural livelihood cannot be generalized, even within one country, and must be disaggregated into spatial and temporal dimensions. Studies conducted in Uganda, the United Republic of Tanzania and Zambia have shown that HIV/AIDS follows a different pattern in each village and district. Geographic and ethnic factors, religion, gender, age, marriage customs and agro-ecological conditions play a role in the pattern and impact of HIV/AIDS and in people's perception of the disease. Communities can be grouped in pre-impact (infections exist, but the impact of the disease is not visible), early impact (visible impact, but community coping mechanisms still work) and full-impact communities (high prevalence of HIV/AIDS-related morbidity and mortality, traditional coping strategies do not work any more). This differentiation is important for the planning and implementation of location-specific intervention strategies.

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