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November 1998

Impact of HIV/AIDS on Agriculture

Population Programme Service (SDWP)
FAO Women and Population Division


FAO was the first UN agency to initiate detailed sectoral analysis of the socio-economic impact of HIV/AIDS on rural economies, and also pre-empted much of the work of this nature by independent institutions. FAO's actions were motivated by increasing evidence that the HIV/AIDS epidemic, especially in Africa, would intensify existing labour bottlenecks in agriculture; increase widespread malnutrition; add to the problems of rural women, especially female-headed farm households arising from gender division of labour and land rights/resources; and deepen the debt crisis by reducing agricultural exports. Thus, right from the beginning, FAO perceived the HIV/AIDS epidemic as a problem of critical importance in development, rather than simply a health issue.

FAO studies and project-related work

Preliminary investigative studies

During the period 1988 to 1991, FAO completed three case studies using its own resources, plus additional financial and analytical support from WHO. These studies were complemented by an assessment of the availability of data for similar case studies in other countries in Central and Southern Africa [1].

The methodology and structure of the case studies were set by FAO with five main objectives in mind:

Throughout the implementation of these studies FAO relied heavily on the analysis of existing data to increase its understanding of the impacts of HIV/AIDS on agricultural production systems and rural development in general. These studies include surveys on labour allocation within families according to age and gender; labour requirements of different crops; and patterns of farm income and expenditure.

FAO's work has identified both specific and general characteristics of vulnerable households and farming systems. It has demonstrated the importance of home remittances from migrant workers, and their loss from HIV/AIDS-related morbidity and mortality, in household food security, food production and nutritional well-being. Finally, it has been able to put forward a wide range of mitigating responses at the farm, community, national and international levels.

Strategic planning and project-related work

In 1993, FAO concentrated its efforts on determining actual rather than hypothesized coping strategies in full impact HIV/AIDS areas, with a view towards elaborating a comprehensive agenda for action that could be shaped by countries to meet their particular circumstances and needs. With financing from its Technical Cooperation Programme (TCP), FAO carried out the project TCP/UGA/2256 "Strengthening Programmes for Rural Youth in Uganda," whose major thrust was to address the needs of rural youth and strengthen the Extension Service's Young Farmers Programme. An important component of the project consisted of assessing the impact of HIV/AIDS on rural families, young people in rural areas, and agricultural production. The report on the "Socio-Economic Impact of HIV/AIDS on Rural Families with Emphasis on Youth" was issued in February 1994.

Under Technical Support Services arrangements (TSS-1) with UNDP, FAO carried out a comprehensive study on "The Effect of HIV/AIDS on Agricultural Production Systems in Eastern Africa (Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia)." The study focused on three main objectives: a) the identification of vulnerable farming systems/household types; b) determination of possible impacts, both quantitative and qualitative; and c) formulation of response options at the farm, community, national and international levels.

National multidisciplinary research teams were selected to carry out the HIV/AIDS impact studies in each of the three countries. Special emphasis was laid on qualitative data gathering methods derived from rapid rural appraisal (RRA) and participatory rural appraisal (PRA). The Final Report, entitled "The Effects of HIV/AIDS on Farming Systems and Rural Livelihoods in Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia", was issued in February 1994 and provides a summary of the three country studies, including project and programme recommendations, and outlines a framework for future activities.

During the field work stage of the TSS-1 activity, the research teams in each of the three countries independently recommended the holding of a workshop which would enable them to discuss, and exchange views on, the methodological approaches used by the different teams and their findings. The workshop preparations included an informal preparatory Inter-Agency meeting which was held in Rome in January 1994 with representatives of WHO, IFAD, the UNDP HIV and Development Programme and FAO attending. The meeting strongly endorsed the holding of the workshop [2] and made recommendations concerning the modalities of its implementation, including, inter alia, target audiences, objectives, and sites.

The workshop was conducted in two stages. A first subregional workshop was held in Tanzania in June 1994 for the researchers who had been involved in conducting the studies in Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. Immediately following the subregional workshop, the national research teams organized a one-day workshop at the national level in their respective countries for a broad audience. One of the main purposes of the national workshops was to sensitize as wide a range of actors - policy-makers, government officials, NGOs, donors, etc. - as possible about the impact of HIV/AIDS on agricultural production systems and possible interventions for mitigating the impact of the epidemic on rural livelihoods.

As a result of the TCP study in Uganda and the East Africa TSS-1 activity, a publication entitled "The Effects of HIV/AIDS on Farming Systems in Eastern Africa" and a booklet entitled "What has AIDS to do with Agriculture?" were produced in 1995.

While most of FAO's work to date on the socio-economic impact of HIV/AIDS has been in Africa, efforts are being made to expand activities into other geographic regions. A workshop on HIV/AIDS and its implications for agricultural extension (AIDSIMAX) was organized in December 1995 in Malaysia. It led to the development of a generic prototype Knowledge-Attitude-Practice (KAP) survey instrument. Taking into account the threat of HIV/AIDS to agricultural productivity and farm family welfare, the objective of the KAP-survey instrument is to assess needs of rural populations in various countries with respect to HIV/AIDS and agricultural extension.

With regard to the investment side of the Organization's services, the Investment Centre Division has been looking into how HIV/AIDS concerns can be integrated into its work. A "Discussion Paper on the Implications of HIV/AIDS on Investment Centre Work" has been prepared. In 1994, at IFAD's request, the Investment Centre prepared an Orphan Assistance Project with a budget of US$ 1.45 million to be financed by a grant from the Belgian Survival Fund to the Uganda Women's Effort to Save Orphans (UWESO). The project, whose primary objective is to strengthen the capacity of UWESO to help the increasing number of orphans and orphan families resulting from regional wars and AIDS, has been approved. In its project identification and preparation work, the Investment Centre has been progressively looking at the implications of HIV/AIDS, particularly in countries or regions experiencing the impact of HIV/AIDS-related morbidity or mortality.

Recent and planned activities

Building on the results of the work carried out in East Africa, another TSS-1 project with the same objectives was recently undertaken in Burkina Faso and Côte d'Ivoire. The results were presented in Ouagadougou at the "First African Symposium on Toxicomania, Hepatitis and AIDS" in January 1997. A publication, entitled "L'impact du VIH/SIDA sur les systèmes d'exploitations agricoles en Afrique de l'Ouest," synthesizing the results of the study was published in December 1997.

Upon the request of UNDP, FAO/SDRE has carried out a study on the impact of and susceptibility to the HIV/AIDS epidemic on commercial agricultural production in two districts in Kenya (Eastern, Nyanza). The study is a component of an overall programme being undertaken by the Kenyan Government, in collaboration with UNDP and the Kenya AIDS NGO Consortium (KANC). Quantitative and qualitative data collection and interviews were conducted in six agro-estates in July-August 1998. Findings of the study reveal that the commercial agriculture sector of Kenya is particularly susceptible to the epidemic and is facing a severe social and economic crisis due to its impact: morbidity and mortality due to HIV/AIDS significantly raise the industry's direct costs (medical and funeral expenses) as well as indirectly through the loss of valuable skills and experience. Hence the epidemic adversely affects the companies' efficiency and productivity. Coping strategies aimed at reducing the costs often predominate strategies aimed at HIV/AIDS prevention. The report "HIV/AIDS and the Commercial Agricultural Sector of Kenya: Impact, Vulnerability, Susceptibility and Coping Strategies" will be issued soon.

FAO was invited to participate at the conference on "Responding to HIV/AIDS: Technology Development Needs of African Smallholder Agriculture", held in Harare, 6-12 June 1998 and organized by the Institute of Social Studies (ISS, The Hague); Wageningen University; the Southern Africa AIDS Information Dissemination Service (SAFAIDS, Harare), and the Zimbabwe Agricultural Research Council (ZARC). A paper was prepared with UNDP support on The Implications of HIV/AIDS for Rural Development Policy and Programming: Focus on Sub-Saharan Africa. Following the Conference, FAO/SDAR is developing a project (with UNDP support) for a study on the impact of HIV/AIDS on and the options for response by the formal agricultural sector to the problems created by the epidemic for. this sector.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) invited FAO to participate in the day of discussion on "Children living in a world with AIDS" (Geneva, 5 October 1998). The FAO Focal Point on AIDS presented a paper on, "Rural Children Living in Farm Systems Affected by HIV/AIDS: Some issues for the rights of child on the basis of FAO HIV/AIDS studies in Africa".

Policy implications

On the basis of FAO's studies, a section on AIDS and agriculture was included in the 1994 edition of the State of Food and Agriculture and debated by the 107th session of the FAO Council in November 1994. This session was the first such meeting to address the issue of HIV/AIDS and "regretted the global incidence and spread of the HIV/AIDS virus which is not just a health issue, but also had adverse implications for agriculture and food security". The Council urged FAO "to continue monitoring the HIV/AIDS problem and to cooperate as appropriate with WHO and other agencies in assessing the adverse effects on food security and develop a preventive programme for the benefit of women in agriculture".

Awareness-raising activities within FAO

An inter-divisional Informal Working Group on HIV/AIDS has been set up within FAO. The main purpose was to create a forum in which interested persons from the various technical and operational divisions of FAO could exchange information and discuss the implications of HIV/AIDS on agricultural development and rural livelihoods. The Informal Working Group also focuses its efforts on raising the awareness of all groups of staff within FAO, including family members and consultants, of the potential impact of HIV/AIDS not only on their individual health, but also of the socio-economic impact of the disease on agriculture and the potential effects on the work of the Organization. Awareness-raising activities include the organization of symposia each year to commemorate World AIDS Day (1 December), workshops, and information dissemination.

In March 1995, the Informal Working Group, with the collaboration of Ms. Elizabeth Reid, the then Director of the UNDP HIV and Development Programme, organized an inter-divisional workshop on the relevance of HIV/AIDS to the agricultural sector and the implications on FAO's work, using Rwanda as a case study. A meeting of divisional directors was held in the afternoon to review the workshop results. The degree to which the impact of HIV/AIDS on agriculture has been, and could be, taken into account in the design and implementation of field activities was also addressed.

As a follow-up to the directors' meeting, the Staff Development Group of AFP organized a two-day workshop in July 1995 on "The Relevance of HIV/AIDS to the Work of FAO" for staff members. The purpose of the workshop was twofold: to provide information on the spread of HIV/AIDS and its potential impact on FAO's work, and to develop skills to analyze the impact of HIV/AIDS-related mortality on agricultural and rural labour, farming systems and rural households and livelihoods. The workshop also discussed ways in which FAO could raise the awareness of government officials to the potential impact of the pandemic on agricultural and rural development with a view to mitigating the effects.

Inter-agency collaboration

FAO, as a member of the Inter-Agency Advisory Group (IAAG) on AIDS since its inception and the Chairperson for the period 1996-1997, has actively promulgated IAAG's moving beyond solely focusing on medical issues towards looking at the socio-economic dimensions of the pandemic, particularly in the rural areas. This issue was also emphasized by FAO in the preparatory meetings which were held to develop the strategic plan of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) which was established in January 1996.

The UN system is more and more concentrating its efforts on developing concrete responses to the epidemic, including in the areas of agriculture and rural development. Inter-agency thematic groups on AIDS have been established at country level, normally chaired by UNDP, and FAO representatives have been encouraged to participate in the meetings. A paper entitled, "Impact of HIV/AIDS on Rural Households/Communities and the Need for Multisectoral Prevention and Mitigation Strategies to Combat the Epidemic in Rural Areas (Special Emphasis on Africa)", was prepared and distributed to FAO Representatives to facilitate their participation in the AIDS thematic groups.

At the Tenth International African Conference on STD/AIDS, which was held in Abidjan in December 1997, the FAO focal point on AIDS made presentations at the plenary on AIDS and agriculture, as well as at a roundtable on migration and AIDS.


1. The three country case studies are:

2. The workshops were funded by UNDP through an Inter-Agency Letter of Agreement under the OPS-executed project RAF/91/004 "Socio-economic Impact of HIV/AIDS."

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