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2. Objectives

This background paper intends to highlight key issues surrounding the impact of HIV/AIDS on land particularly at the rural household level in Southern and Eastern Africa. It also serves as an introduction to three country reports commissioned by the Sub-Regional Office for Southern and Eastern Africa of the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) on the impact of the epidemic on land issues. These studies are focused on Kenya, Lesotho and South Africa. The conceptual framework is intended to provide a general understanding of the epidemic particularly in terms of its impact on rural households and their economies, and ultimately on issues surrounding land. The broad, holistic approach is necessary to conceptualise the intricacies of how HIV/AIDS has affected land in the three countries.

Despite the immense impact of the epidemic on land issues, HIV/AIDS is often under-emphasised or even disregarded in land policies across Southern and Eastern Africa. At a recent conference organised by the Southern African Regional Poverty Network (SARPN)[1], it was evident that HIV/AIDS had not been factored in as a major issue in a range of Southern African countries’ land policies. Indeed, the conference report concluded that ‘HIV/AIDS and its impact on land reform is a neglected area in all Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) countries...[as] there is often an inadequate conceptualisation of the impact of the epidemic on the land reform process (for example on the implementing agencies and on the beneficiaries) as well as on an integrated strategy that links land reform objectives with the impact of HIV/AIDS’ (Drimie and Mbaya, 2001). Although some policies, such as that of South Africa, attempted to raise the issue, very little has been done in practice to integrate or conceptualise the impact in any real way.

This paper is therefore intended to provide a basis for pragmatic recommendations around the issue of land and HIV/AIDS. The paper largely takes the form of a broad overview of the socio-economic impact of HIV/AIDS as identified in the current literature. From this a more focused discussion on land and rural households is developed to provide a background to the three country studies. The paper is organised as follows:

[1] In keeping with the goals of SARPN, the conference was designed to facilitate the sharing of perspectives on land issues in several Southern African countries and to generate debate about how pro-poor policy processes may be incorporated into land reform policy options in the region. During the conference the issues surrounding the impact of HIV/AIDS on land reform received significant interest partly as a response to the perceived dearth of information and policy research on the issue. See the SARPN website at

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