29 July 2003,
Rome -- Despite better harvests and more availability
of food, the recovery of agriculture in southern Africa remains
very fragile and many rural communities are still in need of
urgent agricultural relief aid over the next 12 months, FAO said
As part of a UN Inter-Agency appeal
launch, FAO is seeking $43 million to save and enhance
livelihoods in support of more than 6.5 million people, of whom
many are severely affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
"Thanks to better weather
conditions and the delivery of agricultural inputs such as seeds
and fertilizers, food production has improved in some
areas," said Anne M. Bauer, Director of FAO's
Emergency Operations and Rehabilitation Division. "But
the worst is not over yet. Many of the most vulnerable rural
families are still relying on international assistance for their
immediate survival in the months to come."
The impact of HIV/AIDS
"The impact of HIV/AIDS on agricultural
production is devastating," Bauer said. "The
pandemic is driving entire households and communities to levels
of destitution and misery from which they cannot recover without
assistance. Many people rely on agriculture for their survival.
We need to target and assist these people, to make sure that
they can continue and adapt their farming activities despite the
serious situation they are facing."
FAO said that harvests in 2003 have improved compared
with the previous year in some countries, but agricultural
production still remains below the average of the last five
years. Vulnerability across the region remains significantly
high, while in Zimbabwe and in parts of southern Mozambique the
situation is critical.
causes of the crisis
in southern Africa has been exacerbated by drought,
deteriorating economic conditions, an increase in chronic
poverty and the interruption of commercial farming activities in
Zimbabwe, FAO said.
climatic variability, soil deterioration, ineffective water
control, inadequate farming techniques, reduction of technical
advisory services, poor infrastructure, trade barriers and
HIV/AIDS related mortality continue to undermine food production
and income generation from agriculture. If parents fall sick or
die, the responsibility for growing food often rests with their
children, orphaned by the pandemic, and with the elderly.
Livestock is depleted beyond normal levels
in several areas, notably in Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe due
to disease and the socio-economic situation, the UN agency said.
FAO is currently working with veterinary
officers from the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC),
assessing the magnitude and necessary intervention measures
against transboundary livestock diseases such as foot-and-mouth
and contagious bovine pleuro-pneumonia.
Targeting the most vulnerable
With programmes in Lesotho, Malawi,
Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe, FAO would give
support to increase agricultural production and incomes, to
diversify production activities and crop varieties, to promote
labour-saving practices to improve nutrition and drought
resilience, and mitigate the impact of HIV/AIDS.
The activities will focus on the most vulnerable
households, often headed by women, youth and orphans. FAO will
closely collaborate with other UN agencies, as well as
governmental and non-governmental organizations.
Southern Africa has the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence
rates in the world, with up to 33 percent of the adult
population in the region being HIV positive.
An estimated 15 million people, of whom 58 percent are
women, are living with HIV/AIDS in the six countries, and there
are strong indications that the prevalence rates have not yet
peaked. In 2001, half a million people died of AIDS-related
diseases in the region, leaving 2.5 million orphans.
FAO has developed agricultural strategies that reduce
the workload of HIV/AIDS affected households.
These include labour-saving practices, training in
income generating activities, small-scale irrigation, crop
diversification and winter cropping. The promotion of
drought-tolerant legumes and crops, small-scale poultry, soil
management techniques, and school gardens will also be part of
In 2002/03, FAO
received around $11 million to directly assist more than one
million people in the region. In addition, FAO helped coordinate
and provided technical assistance to improve the quality of
activities provided by other agricultural relief efforts.
FAO projects included assistance to
conservation farming and seed-multiplication in Zambia, crop
diversity through cassava production in Malawi, the distribution
of agricultural inputs in Lesotho, Swaziland and Zimbabwe and
vegetable garden and seed fair initiatives in Mozambique.
Information Officer, FAO
(+39) 06 570