75. The Committee took evidence from Jacques du Guerny
of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) on the impact of
HIV/AIDS on the agriculture sector. Between 60 and 70 per cent
of people in Africa live in rural areas. Jacques du Guerny pointed
out that the methods of agricultural production had changed, "there
is no more subsistence agriculture. This is something of the past.
Therefore, all these farm household units are somehow related
to the outside world fruit markets but also through
rural urban migration. They need to be attached to the outside
world, either to sell their products but also in order to get
back remittances, or to relieve the pressure on the land. Therefore
it is through such mechanisms that the farm household system is
dependent also on the broader urban economy, and that through
these exchanges the virus has the possibility to move into the
rural areas and to spread".
76. Jacques du Guerny emphasised that statistics
on the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the rural communities were limited.
Most statistics were extrapolations from ante natal clinic surveys,
which were urban-based. Prevalence was higher in urban areas,
with rural prevalence being usually low until a few years ago.
The virus spread into rural areas, however, though markets, border
crossings, and through the new mobility of workers between rural
and urban areas. Even if rural prevalence remained lower than
that in the cities, the fact that the majority lived in rural
areas meant that even the lower rual prevalence was having a significant
effect on the national figures for those infected with HIV/AIDS.
Jacques du Guerny stressed that it would be a mistake to see the
rural population as homogeneous there were distinct epidemics
amongst different rural groups, artisanal fishermen, pastoralists,
those on plantations etc.
77. The impact of HIV/AIDS on the agriculture sector
depended on the farming system, and in particular on the system's
margin of security. Wealthier farm households are obviously more
resilient than poorer ones, but there are also systems which are
more vulnerable, for example those who farm in semi-arid areas
such as the Sahel or northern Kenya, where rain is more uncertain
and there is as a matter of course greater vulnerability to shocks.
He pointed out that "The problem with AIDS is that it takes
a long time. A sudden death is more easily absorbed as a shock
because these systems are traditionally more used to it. It is
a protracted disease which stops people earning income and they
require expenditure. That is one of the very insidious aspects
of AIDS. Also, in these very traditional communities, when they
are in the beginning phases of the disease, since they can be
quite common diseases, they do not associate it with what is really
going to happen. So they will make all the investments necessary
to try to get care etc. In poor households, one of the problems
also is the time which is taken up in care and things like that.
Since basically these households' main assets are often their
labour, anything which is deducted from that can have quite a
78. Thus the impact of HIV/AIDS on the rural poor
includes the loss of income as household members fall ill and
die, and the extra expenditure incurred in taking care of those
who are ill, which diverts not only money but also labour. Often
those who have gone to urban areas to get work will return to
the village when ill. Thus remittances end and at the same time
there is an increased burden of care. There are various knock-on
effects on the agriculture sector. One is that farmers tend to
abandon labour-intensive crops such as coffee and drop the cultivation
of those fields which are further away and thus take up more time,
"They do tend to retrench to subsistence crops such as cassava
and things like that. Therefore, this has an impact on the nutrition
of the family. On the one hand, there is less cash with which
to buy possibly other foods. They also revert to less nutritious
foods because they are generally easier to produce".
Jacques du Guerny suspected that there was also a differential
impact on cultivation and nutrition depending on whether it was
the man or the woman who was first ill, though research had yet
to be carried out in this area.
79. HIV/AIDS takes a disproportionate toll on the
mature working population. Jacques du Guerny made the point that
rural communities were in the past quite used to high levels of
mortality, "What is different, however, in this case, is
that it is not the usual categories of people who die: the infants,
the children and the elderly. It is the young adults".
This means that it often the young and the old who are left. We
discuss separately the impact of HIV/AIDS on the elderly and children.
The point to make here is that there is also a significant impact
on the agriculture sector where those remaining to do the work
are grandparents and children. Both daughters and sons drop out
of school as HIV/AIDS has an effect on their parents, daughters
helping their mothers in the kitchen and sons, for example in
pastoralist societies, taking over from sick fathers in looking
after the herds. Not only do the children drop out of school but
they also "tend to become less good farmers because the transmission
of knowledge is done through working with the parents. Therefore
this process can be interrupted and they can be less skilful or
knowledgeable in the tasks they have to carry out ... the various
epidemics mortgage the future of these children. One could very
well see that instead of having a development process, not only
would development be stopped but a reverse process might be happening
because the children could be less educated, less skilful than
In livestock-dependent communities children are less able to look
after the animals, from both a lack of strength and training,
and thus the livestock die, depriving the households of their
80. Not only does HIV/AIDS have an impact on the
farm household system. There are also severe implications for
ministries of agriculture and the commercial agriculture sector.
Jacques du Guerny told us, "The staff of the ministries of
agriculture are being decimated in some cases. They are often
losing extension workers, they are losing highly qualified staff
and they can be extremely difficult to replace ... It is going
to be a complex process for ministries to adjust to the impact
of the epidemic and to respond. Also it creates a lot of cost
for the ministries because replacing qualified staff is something
which is extremely expensive. It creates all kinds of disruptions
in the way the ministry functions because people have to attend
81. Studies in Kenya suggested that the commercial
agriculture sector was also affected "because unskilled labour
might seem cheap but it is still costly to replace. It is not
unskilled as it appears to be, they always have some skills. Therefore,
when the replacement arrives that person has to learn. You also
have skilled people in the commercial agriculture sector, managers
etc, and their costs, they can be extremely difficult to replace
because they really know the plantation etc and you cannot just
bring in a very good agronomist or whatever from the outside to
run the plantation overnight".
There were also extra costs arising from absenteeism due to illness
or funerals and also from health schemes. Costs were also being
affected even when the work was contracted out to small farmers
as in the sugar industry, where because the sugar cane was being
cared for less well as a result of the impact of HIV/AIDS it took
more tonnes of sugar cane to make a tonne of refined sugar.
82. This examination of the impact of HIV/AIDS on
the agriculture sector clearly demonstrates the need for national
ministries of agriculture and donors to reassess how best to support
agriculture and rural livelihoods. Jacques du Guerny argued that
"it would be important to make specific efforts to improve
data collection in rural areas, since 60 to 70 per cent of the
total population of many African countries are there".
We recommend that UNAIDS coordinate surveys of HIV incidence
and prevalence in rural areas to improve understanding of the
rural aspects of the epidemic. We are concerned that at present
there is too much reliance on data collected from ante natal clinics,
thus reinforcing an urban bias to data since rural areas are less
well served by such infrastructure. Similarly, further research
is needed into the various ways in which HIV/AIDS is spreading
in and affecting different sorts of agricultural community.
83. Jacques du Guerny believed that to date HIV/AIDS
programmes have been inadequately targeted on rural areas, "There
have been a number of efforts but they tend to be small-scale
like NGOs, etcetera. They have very limited access and resources.
Up to now there has been a tendency to focus more on urban areas.
We need to balance it more because urban and rural areas are so
interlinked, it does not make sense just to work on one side".
We recommend that DFID comment on the claim that HIV/AIDS interventions
have been too urban-based to date and give details of those rural
and agricultural projects currently supported by DFID which have
the tackling of HIV/AIDS as a primary component.
84. The evidence from Jacques du Guerny points to
a number of ways that development needs to be 'rethought'. He
said, "I think at this stage whether it is agricultural policies
and programmes, whether it is educational policies and programmes,
in the strongly affected countries they have to be reconsidered,
it cannot be business as usual".
Of central importance is the rethinking of strategies by Ministries
of Agriculture. The FAO clearly has a role in encouraging such
a process but we were told that it was difficult, "for an
agency like the FAO to barge ahead in the area of AIDS if the
member states at the FAO Conference do not give instructions in
We recommend that MAFF advocate a clear mandate for the FAO
in combatting HIV/AIDS and assist the FAO in consideration of
how best to support Ministries of Agriculture faced with high
85. We would also bring a number of other matters
to the attention of DFID, recommending their inclusion in DFID's
HIV/AIDS strategy and their promotion in dealings with other donors
and national governments:
- education policies should be reviewed to provide
rural children at a younger age with marketable skills, agricultural
knowledge, survival and income-generating skills for city life
- human resources in Ministries of Agriculture
should be reviewed urgently to minimise the impact of the loss
of skilled workers to HIV/AIDS. Adaptable civil service systems
will be necessary to adapt and shorten chains of command
and technical assistance may well be needed
- rural credit should be developed to prevent
destitution and there should be consideration of land tenure systems
- the legal and human rights of women, children
and the HIV-positive require attention and protection in rural