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CTA. 1999. Red-ribbon farming. Spore 82. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/48484
Internet URL: http://spore.cta.int/images/stories/pdf/old/spore82.pdf
The red ribbon has become a worldwide symbol for mourning a death from AIDS
The red ribbon has become a worldwide symbol for mourning a death from AIDS, a disease whose impact on ACP agriculture is terrifying for those who suffer and die, those left behind, and those yet to come. The talk is of devastation, decimation, and despair. It is time to respond, to come to terms with the scourge that may remain with us forever. A village dies every week in Zimbabwe, where one in five adults suffers from HIV/AIDS, the sexually-transmitted disease that strips the body of its immunity to infection. Each week, one thousand Zimbabweans die from AIDS-induced illnesses. More than two-thirds of all new AIDS cases in the world are reported from Africa, where more than 21 million people suffer. Across the developing world, which has 85% of all AIDS cases, the struggle against its spread receives a tiny portion-estimated at one-tenth-of the $2 billion that the world spends on HIV/AIDS prevention. It is for most people a disease of poverty, although it can strike anyone indulging in unsafe sex and-greatest concern of all-the unborn children of sufferers. In Uganda, for example, one pregnant woman in three is affected, and so will be their children. Most of the attention on the health aspects of AIDS is focussed in the North, but it is above all a social and developmental tragedy in the South. And, while there are more infections in towns than in the country, the impact is greatest in rural areas since many infected urban dwellers and migrant labourers return to their villages to be cared for and add to the number of local cases. Rural livelihoods at risk The impact of HIV/AIDS on households and communities has significant implications for the sustainability of rural livelihoods, according to a recent regional conference on HIV/AIDS and agriculture held in Harare, Zimbabwe. The two immediate impacts of an illness and a death are the loss of an often productive person and loss of time as family members take off from agricultural work to care for the sick, and to mourn. Expenses for medicine and funerals add to a family's debt burden and eat into its capital that could otherwise be invested in agriculture. Loss of labour affects crop and livestock production, by reducing the amount of land under cultivation. Soil fertility and harvests decline because soil management, tilling, weeding, mulching, and planting are neglected. Frequent loss and sale of animals due to less care lead in turn to less long-term capital being available for investment. Extension services, already overstretched and under-resourced, suffer from absenteeism due to long illnesses, attendance of funerals, and death of workers; in some regions of Ghana, Zimbabwe, and Uganda, for example, more than 10% of extension workers have died. Studies by the FAO on the impact of HIV/AIDS on agriculture in western, eastern, and southern Africa repeatedly stress that, by cutting down large slices of today's and tomorrow's productive generations, the disease aggravates existing agricultural and rural problems. Rural women suffer the most from its impact. The Harare conference spoke of their triple jeopardy arising from their roles as mothers, wives, and farmers. When they have to replace the loss of a breadwinner by starting or expanding their agricultural activity, they are hindered by uncertain access to land, credit, and education. Innovators, your country needs you Smallholder agriculture has been hit hard by the first wave of HIV/AIDS since its emergence in 1981, and it will continue to suffer for several generations. Prevention campaigns are starting to have effect, with heartening success stories about public awareness resulting in falling infection rates. The disease continues to spread, however, and policies for agriculture and rural development have to change significantly. The challenge is not a new one: 'more from less' is one way to sum it up. The resources available for expanding agricultural production and rural livelihoods have diminished: less labour, less capital, lost traditional knowledge, weakened informal institutions, shrunken formal institutions. There is room here for drawing on the well of innovation of rural communities and popular institutions, often represented by village and farmers' associations and the nongovernmental sector. Sometimes it is a case of strengthening existing mutual support organisations; sometimes new organisations can emerge, as has happened in the Hay and Mambo villages of Tanzania, where new savings groups have sprung up in response to the impact of HIV/AIDS. Recent advances in microcredit, microenterprise, and employment creation could be refined even further, by being better targeted at (even better, by) women, and with a greater focus on management of financial resources. Microfinance has become a tool for empowerment in villages and NGOs, and it needs to be fine-tuned to the changing conditions of surviving rural users. The same applies to agricultural technologies, which depend on the creativity of researchers. According to the Harare conference, a greater role could be played by low-input systems that require little human energy, or investment: intercropping to reduce weeding time, minimum tillage techniques, use of trap crops to lure pests away from productive crops and natural pest management. Appropriate technologies need to be further developed, such as animal weeding, mulching, intercropping, further selection of crop varieties for disease and drought resistance, equipment for use by the sick, as well as labour-saving devices for use in the household and for collecting water. Agricultural extension also needs to adapt to working more with clients previously untargeted: women, youths, and schools. All these themes will be developed further at a conference to be held in Accra, Ghana, in November 1999, which will be supported by CTA. You may change your mind Prevention of the HIV/AIDS epidemic depends mainly in changes of behaviour and attitude on the part of the individual. The same applies to coping with the permanent impact of HIV/AIDS on ACP agriculture and rural development. To make the necessary changes in agricultural practice requires changes in attitudes in the individuals who make up its many institutions. Informal institutions in villages have started to change, and the process should be encouraged by local, regional, and national governments, the private sector, and donor agencies. These need to re-invent forgotten mechanisms of being nonbureaucratic and supporting small projects. For formal bodies, understanding the changed needs and nature of the farmer means listening, asking, and understanding at local level through more participatory approaches. Seeking and making solutions, such as adapting technologies with smallholders, means establishing genuine partnerships between institutions. The real impact of HIV/AIDS on ACP agriculture has still to be felt, as yet another slap in the face in addition to natural and man-induced disasters of drought, climate change, changing markets, and structural adjustment. Perhaps HIV/AIDS, as a disaster that touches individuals so deeply, represents the ultimate external threat that will lead to unity in making change. If not, there will be room for another, more sombre, innovation that, according to Andrew Mutwanda, a leading AIDS campaigner and a writer in Zimbabwe's Financial Gazette, has caught on in many parts of the world: the Memory Book. This is used by a family as part of its grieving ritual to commemorate a person lost to AIDS. It is a history of important people and events, a record of their aspirations and heritage. The 'Memory Book of Agriculture' is a book we must hope will never need to be written. [summary points] Rural livelihoods at risk The impact of AIDS on ACP agriculture is immediate, and enduring: illness and death destroy the major capital of agriculture - people - and working capital loss of labour affects farm maintenance and extension services women are hardest hit more finance and policy support is needed for village-level credit programmes, self-help groups and the development of appropriate technologies new approaches require new attitudes from policy-makers For further information Responding to HIV/AIDS: Technology Development Needs of African Smallholder Agriculture. Conference held in Harare, Zimbabwe, and hosted by the Southern African AIDS Information Dissemination Service. SAfAIDS PO Box A509, Avondale, Harare, Zimbabwe Fax: +263 4 336195 Email: email@example.com Website: www.safaids.org The Implications of HIV/AIDS for Rural Development Policy and Programming: Focus on Sub-Saharan Africa, by D Topouzis for Sustainable Development Department, FAO, and HIV and Development Programme, UNDP FAO, 1998. The publication is available on Internet: Website: www.fao.org/sd/wpdirect/wpre0074.html FAO Sales and Marketing Group, Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, 00100 Rome, Italy. Fax: +39 06 57 05 33 60 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.fao.org/waicent