HIV/AIDS Will ‘Postpone’ Africa’s Chances for Food Production Self-Sufficiency
The effects of HIV/AIDS pose a substantial threat to farming in Africa and will "postpone" Africa's chance of becoming self-sufficient in food production, Marcela Villarreal, chief of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization's population program, said Monday at a Stockholm, Sweden, seminar, Reuters reports. FAO estimates that in the 25 African nations most affected by HIV/AIDS, seven million agricultural workers have died from AIDS-related complications since 1985. Those countries could lose an additional 16 million farm workers to AIDS by 2020. FAO also estimated that Namibia will lose 26% of its agricultural labor force to AIDS between 1985 and 2020. During that same time period, Botswana and Zimbabwe will lose 23% of their farm workers, Mozambique and South Africa will lose 20% and Kenya will lose 17%. "AIDS has a huge toll on the agricultural labor force. Most affected countries (in sub-Saharan Africa) are basically agricultural," Villarreal said. She noted that AIDS will not just impact food production, but will carry nutritional and economic implications as well. Farmers in sub-Saharan Africa are responding to the effects of HIV/AIDS by shifting to "less nutritious" crops because they are less "labor intensive," she said. Economically, Villarreal said that in Ethiopia, the average costs for AIDS treatment and time spent grieving exceed annual farm income. However, Villarreal said she "had not lost hope" that Africa would be self-sufficient in food production, even if that day was "at least postponed" (Brough, Reuters, 10/15).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.