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HIV/AIDS and the Agricultural Sector in Eastern and Southern Africa: Anticipating the Consequences
T.S. Jayne, Marcela Villarreal, Prabhu Pingali, and Günter Hemrich
March 2005

http://www.irinnews.org/report.asp?ReportID=46121

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Abstract

This paper draws upon development economics theory, demographic projections, and empirical evidence to consider the likely consequences of the HIV/AIDS pandemic for the agricultural sector of the hardest-hit countries of Eastern and Southern Africa. We identify four processes that have been underemphasized in previous analysis:

  1. the momentum of long-term population growth rates;
  2. substantial underemployment in these countries’ informal sectors;
  3. sectoral declines in land-to-person ratios in the smallholder farming sectors; and
  4. effects of food and input marketing reforms on shifts in cropping patterns. The paper concludes that the conventional wisdom encouraging prioritisation of labour-saving technology or crops has been over-generalised, although labour-saving agricultural technologies may be appropriate for certain types of households and regions. The most effective means for agricultural policy to respond to HIV/AIDS will entail stepping up support for agricultural science and technology development, extension systems, and input and crop market development to improve the agricultural sector’s potential to raise living standards in highly affected rural communities.

Background
There is now widespread recognition that HIV/AIDS is not simply a health issue. Effectively combating the pandemic will require a coordinated multi-sectoral approach. While many in the agricultural sector embrace the idea of playing a role to combat HIV/AIDS, there has been very little analysis by agricultural policy analysts to guide them. Despite the fact that the pandemic is now in its third decade in Africa, available analysis to date provides a very murky picture as to how HIV/AIDS is affecting the agricultural sector - its structure, cropping systems, relative costs of inputs and factors of production, technological and institutional changes, and supply and demand for agricultural products. Until these issues are clarified, policy makers will be inadequately prepared to forecast anticipated changes to the agricultural sector and respond proactively.

This paper is intended to respond to the need to better understand the implications of the AIDS pandemic for the agricultural sectors in the hardest-hit countries of eastern and southern Africa. The seven countries of the world with estimated HIV-prevalence rates exceeding 20 percent1 are all in southern Africa: Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe (US Census Bureau, 2002). Five other countries, all in southern and eastern Africa (Cameroon, Central African Republic, Kenya, Malawi, and Mozambique), have HIV-prevalence rates between 10-20 percent. For shorthand, we hereafter refer to these countries as the "hardest hit" countries.

This article reviews available empirical evidence of the effects of AIDS on rural household livelihoods and discusses the implications for long-term processes of demographic and economic structural transformation. We highlight four processes that have been underemphasized in previous analysis: 1) the momentum of long-term population growth rates; 2) substantial underemployment in these countries' informal sectors; 3) sectoral declines in farm sizes and land/labour ratios in the smallholder farming sectors; and 4) effects of food and input marketing reforms on shifts in cropping patterns. Understanding these trends are necessary to anticipate the consequences of the HIV/AIDS epidemic for the agricultural sector and to consider the implications for agricultural policy.

Concluding remarks
Mitigating the spread and the consequences of HIV/AIDS requires a coordinated approach involving agencies responsible for agriculture, health, trade and commerce, and finance. Based on projections of future demographic change in the hardest-hit countries of eastern and southern Africa, the full impacts of HIV/AIDS on the agricultural sector are only just starting to manifest, and will intensify over the next several decades. It is critical that agricultural policy makers anticipate the changes that HIV/AIDS will bring to the agricultural and rural sector, and proactively respond through the development of policies and programmes that factor in these projected impacts of the disease. Because many policies and programmes take years to implement and provide tangible results with a time lag after implementation, there is urgency to put in place an appropriate set of public investments and programmes that can cushion the blow by the time the long-wave impacts of AIDS are in full force, rather than respond reactively after crises caused by structural changes in the economy have already manifested.

One of the most important ways in which agricultural policy can contribute to reducing the spread and consequences of AIDS is to contribute effectively to poverty reduction. Risky sexual behaviours are at least partially related to limited opportunities to earn a livelihood through other means. Moreover, raising households' and communities' living standards over the long-run -- through productivity-enhancing investments in agricultural technology generation and diffusion, improved crop marketing systems, basic education, infrastructure, and governance - will improve their ability to withstand the social and economic stresses caused by the disease. Greater focus on these productivity-enhancing investments is likely to be a critical part of an effective response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and the extent to which progress is made in these areas over the next 20 years is likely to greatly influence living standards in these hardest-hit countries of eastern and southern Africa.

T.S. Jayne
Professor, International Development
Department of Agricultural Economics
Michigan State University
e-mail: jayne@msu.edu

Marcela Villarreal
Chief, Gender and Development Service
Sustainable Development Department
Food and Agriculture Organization, Rome, Italy
e-mail: Marcela.Villarreal@fao.org

Prabhu Pingali
Director, Agricultural and Development
Economics Division
Economic and Social Department
Food and Agriculture Organization, Rome, Italy
e-mail: Prabhu.Pingali@fao.org

Günter Hemrich
Economist, Agricultural and Development
Economics Division
Economic and Social Department
Food and Agriculture Organization, Rome, Italy
e-mail: Guenter.Hemrich@fao.org

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