1 December 2003, Maputo,
Mozambique Policy-makers from nine African countries devastated by
the AIDS epidemic have agreed on a process to ensure that future agricultural
policy doesnt fail because the effects of the disease were not taken into
The agreement took place at an FAO workshop here a week before
World AIDS Day, 1 December, and as new figures from UNAIDS predict that between
2000 and 2020, 55 million Africans will die earlier than they would have in the
absence of the disease.
The loss of rural people in the prime of life
to the epidemic is devastating African agriculture, both large- and small-scale.
Not only is there a shortage of able-bodied labourers to work the fields, but
knowledge about farming methods is dying out with the farmers. A study of communal
agriculture in Zimbabwe found that maize production fell by 61 percent in households
that suffered an AIDS-related death.
Twenty-five agricultural policy-makers
attended the FAO workshop from Burundi, Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa,
Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe, countries with some
of the highest HIV prevalence rates in the world.
a seven-step process to systematically incorporate HIV/AIDS issues into agricultural
policy, addressing such topics as situation analysis, policy mapping, negotiating
with partners such as ministries of finance, and monitoring and evaluation.
participants worked on concrete agricultural policy examples to identify where
there might be a problem and the ways of addressing it, says Marcela Villarreal,
AIDS focal point at FAO and one of the workshop organizers.
able to increase awareness of the importance of undertaking a systematic revision
of agricultural policy in the context of HIV/AIDS and to discuss an effective
tool to implement such a revision, says Prabhu Pingali, Director of the
Agriculture and Economic Development Analysis Division, another of the organizers.
workshop heard one example of an agricultural policy derailed by the disease.
In Malawi, in an effort to increase smallholder crop production, the Government
distributed starter packs of seed and fertilizer to the most vulnerable, enough
for plots of one-tenth of a hectare. When it investigated the programmes
impact, it found that AIDS widows who received the packs were so desperate that
they had sold the fertilizer and eaten the seeds.
Latest hunger report
According to The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2003,
recently released by FAO, by 2020, the HIV/AIDS epidemic will have claimed one-fifth
or more of the agricultural labour force in most southern African countries.
effectively combat hunger in regions ravaged by HIV/AIDS, interventions must address
the particular needs of AIDS-affected households and incorporate measures both
to prevent and to mitigate its spread.
Studies show that in severely
affected areas, more than half of all households are headed by three groups: women
(30 percent, mostly widows), grandparents (nearly 20 percent) and orphaned children
(almost 5 percent). Lacking the labour, resources and know-how to grow staple
and commercial crops, many households have shifted to cultivating survival foods.
Others have abandoned their fields entirely.
Information Officer, FAO
+39 06 570 52762