Author(s): W. Muzari, A. Mpofu, S. Musiyandaka, W. Gatsi
This paper discusses the impacts of the HIV/AIDS pandemic on agriculture, food security and rural livelihoods in Zimbabwe. It is based on research findings from a survey of secondary sources of data. The HIV/AIDS pandemic is significantly transforming the structure of rural families and communities in Zimbabwe. It is giving rise to single-parent, female and child headed households which have implications for agricultural planning. Agricultural production is central to the rural economy in Zimbabwe. Smallholder agriculture, at one time a strong and resilient backbone of Zimbabweâ€™s national food security strategy, is under threat from the devastating effects of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Impacts at household level include reduced income from agricultural production and non-agricultural activities, diversion of productive labour time from agriculture to caring for the sick in the family, and reallocation of cash resources from agriculture to meeting medical expenses. Redirecting of food reserves to funerals, withdrawal of children from school to reduce household costs and to replace the dwindling farm household labour, are yet other impacts. Agricultural extension services in Zimbabwe have also been hard hit by AIDS-related illnesses and deaths, making them less able to respond effectively to the changing needs of their target farmers. The impact of HIV/AIDS on agriculture directly affects food security, as it reduces food availability through falling production, loss of family labour, land and other resources, and loss of livestock, assets and implements. It also reduces access to food through declining income for food purchases. Livelihoods derived from natural resources management have also been impacted on by HIV/AIDS. The pandemic has reduced the numbers and capacity of qualified, willing, capable and productive people in the natural resources sector. This has negatively impacted the conservation, management and sustainable utilization of natural resources. In addition, the negative effects of the epidemic have been to accelerate the rate of extraction of forest products to meet the new and increased demands of those affected and infected by HIV/AIDS. Therefore, there is need to strengthen the health delivery system in Zimbabwe to cope with the increasing burden of HIV/AIDS and chronic illnesses. At the same time, it is important to capacitate Home-Based Care programmes in terms of the training of caregivers, equipping them with appropriate care facilities as well as linking them with the national health delivery system for follow-ups. Above all, it is necessary to intensify HIV/AIDS interventions at all levels in order to continue reducing the prevalence and incidence of infections and illnesses.
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