This study is part of an FAO Integrated Support to Sustainable Development and Food Security Programme (IP) regional initiative involving Namibia, Uganda and Zambia. The aim of the initiative was to gather disaggregated statistical information on the impacts that HIV/AIDS has on agricultural production and food security within the broader context of other constraints.
About three-quarters of Namibia's population live in rural areas, and 70 percent are employed in agriculture, even though this sector accounts for only 9 percent of GDP and 14 percent of exports. Although the country has a relatively high average per capita income, the income inequality between rich and poor is one of the highest in the world, and about 40 percent of Namibians live below the poverty line and have no access to potable water. It is estimated that more than 20 percent of the country's sexually active population is HIV-positive.
The overall purpose of this study was to collect information and data that would improve the knowledge and understanding of HIV/AIDS' impacts on rural households and communities in Namibia. This was achieved through a desk review of the existing relevant literature and through qualitative and quantitative surveys of selected sample communities from the country's Ohangwena region. Both of these surveys focused in particular on gender and youth issues and used an interdisciplinary approach to define precisely how the impacts of the HIV/AIDS pandemic contribute to poverty. The study also sought to devise strategies for mitigating those impacts.
Among other impacts, rural households that have experienced HIV/AIDS-related illness and death have lost time and labour availability, agricultural knowledge and skills, land and property, and funds for improving production. At the same time, their dependency burden has increased. In some cases, the loss of adult labour has forced families to withdraw older children from school to care for younger siblings and/or help in food production. The resulting decrease in education levels will continue to perpetuate the cycle of poverty across generations. Female-headed households (and, increasingly, youth-headed ones) typically have less access to such productive resources as labour, technology, credit and land. Thus, these families constitute the poorest of the poor rural families in Namibia.
The following are some of the main negative outcomes of HIV/AIDS' impact on agriculture and rural communities in Namibia: