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A 65-year-old Malawian woman with six of her nine grandchildren, whose parents have died of AIDS (UNICEF/HQ93-0757/Andrew)
food security


In countries where HIV is largely transmitted through heterosexual intercourse, the majority of AIDS-related deaths occur in the sexually active age groups, which are usually the most economically productive groups as well. The loss of farm labour has a visible impact on agricultural production, but there are less tangible losses associated with the death of a family member - indigenous knowledge, for instance.

Rural farming systems depend upon a wealth of local agricultural and biodiversity knowledge that is essential for maintaining production. The loss of reproductive generations takes with it the channel for passing livelihood skills and agricultural knowledge from generation to generation. The result? A young population ill-equipped to manage the impacts of the epidemic and to maintain successful agricultural production.

Other types of community knowledge, such as maintaining local genetic diversity, is often passed orally from generation to generation and are fundamental for nurturing and preserving cultural identity. The death of a generation means a break in the chain, and with it a disruption of the oral tradition.

related links
addressing the impact of HIV/AIDS on Ministries of Agriculture: focus on Eastern and Southern Africa (pdf)
agrobiodiversity, food security and HIV/AIDS mitigation in sub-Saharan Africa: strategic issues
culture, agriculture & rural development: a view from FAO's Population Programme Service
FAO SD LinKS project
more FAO publications

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