Agriculture badly affected by HIV/AIDS
Wednesday 31 March 2004
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ZIMBABWE: Agriculture badly affected by HIV/AIDS


Labour losses due to HIV/AIDS have badly affected production

JOHANNESBURG, 17 December (PLUSNEWS) - Zimbabwe's struggling agricultural sector, already hard hit by drought, shortages of inputs and the fast-track land reform programme, has also been badly affected by HIV/AIDS.

In its latest report the UN Relief and Recovery Unit (RRU) noted that "productivity has been severely affected in the agricultural sector as a direct result of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in the country".

Research indicates a 43 percent HIV/AIDS prevalence rate on farms, compared to a national infection level of 24.6 percent, with the highest number of HIV-positive people in the 15 to 23 age range - "the core of the agricultural labour force".

The research, conducted for the UN Development Programme and soon to be published in the "Zimbabwe Human Development Report 2003", found that 23 percent of labour losses among farming communities were due to HIV/AIDS.

As a result, the total area cropped in Zimbabwe had declined by about 39 percent. "Crop yield has declined by 59 percent, and marketed output declines of 66 percent could be experienced in Zimbabwe's agricultural sector due to the HIV/AIDS pandemic," the RRU said.

The impact of HIV/AIDS on agriculture has seen both "labour quantity and quality compromised through incapacitation and deaths". This included the "loss of agricultural extension workers through death, illness and discharge on medical grounds", while a "significant amount of man-hours have been lost [through] increased absenteeism because of illness, caring for the sick or attending funerals".

The research indicated a statistical decline in livestock and crop production among communal HIV/AIDS-affected households.

Investment levels were also lower, as "resources meant for agricultural production are increasingly being diverted to care for the sick, and for funeral expenses".

In response to the crisis the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement has established an HIV/AIDS desk to spearhead HIV/AIDS programmes. Some of its interventions include the distribution of condoms and holding awareness workshops on HIV/AIDS.

However, these initiatives had been hindered by a lack of resources, the RRU said.

The Unit noted that the combined impact of HIV/AIDS, the macroeconomic policy environment and Zimbabwe's "severe economic decline", were the main causal factors of the humanitarian crisis in the country.

"These factors will continue to simultaneously erode self-reliance at household level, and the quality of essential basic services at the national level, leading to rising vulnerability," the study predicted.

Another poor farming season has been forecast for 2003-04 due to the acute shortage of inputs, including seeds, fertiliser and farming implements.

The Zimbabwe Farmers Union (ZFU) recently noted that "over the past four seasons, production has either remained static or declined, due to a number of factors beyond the control of general farmers".

The government's fast-track land reform programme and drought have been blamed for the downturn in production. But planning a recovery for the sector, which is vital to both household and national income, is going to be difficult with the added complication of HIV/AIDS.

"With the agricultural sector threatened in this way, and at a time when food security is already a major cause for concern, urgent short- and medium-term initiatives in the HIV/AIDS sector are required," the RRU warned.



Recent ZIMBABWE Reports

Fresh TV show gives youth voice and advise,  10/Mar/04
Ambitious plans to roll out ARVs,  10/Mar/04
Free ARVs available from next month,  17/Feb/04
EU aid for health services,  26/Jan/04
Opportunity knocks on desperate doors,  23/Jan/04


The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria
The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria

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