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May 2004

Announcement of a new publication

Interactions between the agricultural sector and the HIV/AIDS Pandemic: Implications for agriculture policy. FAO

by Thom S. Jayne
Marcela Villarreal
Prabhu Pingali
and GŁnter Hemrich

This background paper was presented at the workshop "Agricultural Policy and HIV/AIDS: Understanding the Linkages", sponsored by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), November 19-21, Maputo, Mozambique.

There is an urgent need to consider how the design of agricultural policies and programs might be modified to better achieve the objectives of the agricultural sector in light of the reality of AIDS, as well as consider the role of agricultural policy in mitigating the spread and impacts of the AIDS epidemic. Based on projections of future demographic change in the hardest-hit countries of Eastern and Southern Africa, the full impacts of HIV/AIDS on the agricultural sector are only just starting to manifest, and will intensify over the next several decades. Evidence suggests that, without proactive policy responses, the disease is likely to have the following major effects on the agricultural sector: (1) increased rural inequality caused by disproportionately severe effects of AIDS on relatively poor households; (2) a reduction in household assets and wealth, leading to less capital-intensive cropping systems for severely affected communities and households; and (3) problems in transferring knowledge of crop husbandry and marketing to the succeeding generation of African farmers. The disease is not likely to have a major effect on the number of working age adults in the 20-59 year age range, even in the hardest-hit countries. Nevertheless the cost of labor in agriculture may rise in some areas as increasing scarcity of capital (notably, animal draft power for land preparation and weeding) will increase the demand for labor in agricultural production or shift agricultural systems to less labor- and capital-intensive crops.

It is critical that agricultural policy makers anticipate the changes that HIV/AIDS will bring to the agricultural and rural sector, and proactively respond through the development of policies and programs that factor in these projected impacts of the disease. The paper argues that because many policies and programs take years to implement and provide tangible results with a time lag after implementation, there is indeed urgency to put in place an appropriate set of public investments and programs that can cushion the blow by the time the long-wave impacts of AIDS are in full force, rather than respond reactively after crises caused by structural changes in the economy have already manifested. To a large extent, the most effective means for agricultural policy to respond to the disease and contribute to its mitigation will entail effectively focusing on a few major priorities: investing in agricultural research to generate improved technologies capable of raising the productivity of crop and livestock systems; rehabilitating public extension systems depleted by AIDS to disseminate the use of appropriate farming techniques; and instituting well-functioning crop and input marketing systems that contribute to small-scale farmers productivity and food security.

This paper provides an initial framework for governments and donors to assess and potentially modify existing agricultural programs, policies, and investment strategies for achieving their agricultural and rural development objectives after factoring in the likely impacts of HIV/AIDS on the rural socio-economy.

Click here to view the document (pdf format -482 KB).

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