One of the many areas of society hit hard by the HIV/AIDS
epidemic is agriculture. Many thousands of farmers in sub-Saharan Africa have
died of the disease, leading to food insecurity.
this World AIDS Day, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization is calling for
greater investment in agriculture and nutritional policies. Marcela Villarreal
is director of the FAO's Gender, Equity and Rural Employment Division.
the rural areas, we're seeing that in many countries in sub-Saharan Africa,
prevalence rates are equal [to] or even higher than in the urban areas. This,
of course, has a very important on the agricultural production, clearly.
Because when you have people who are sick you cannot produce. Therefore…you
will have definitely much lower agricultural production, less food production,
less food availability. And also when you don't produce, you can't sell your
food. Therefore you don't have the money to buy your food either," she says.
FAO estimates some countries could lose as much as 25 percent of the
agricultural labor force due to HIV/AIDS. "That of course puts a huge constraint on
agricultural production and also on agricultural productivity." It says that
means countries would have fewer goods to export and less food for rural areas.
As a result, the FAO is working with agricultural
ministries to develop labor saving technologies. Villarreal says, "It is very
evident when there are huge labor shortages because people are either sick or
caring for the sick or have died naturally or are attending funerals. You need
agriculture that will be able to function with much less available labor."
The UN agency is also promoting new
nutrition strategies. Villarreal says, "It is evident that people who are
better nourished can fend off opportunistic diseases, which are ones that kill
people in the end."