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International News

Cultivated Land Disappears in AIDS-Ravaged Africa

September 9, 2005

Thursday in Dublin, researchers told attendees of the British Association of Science meeting that the amount of cultivated land in some African countries has fallen by nearly 70 percent due to HIV/AIDS. Around 80 percent of Africans live off the land but the disease, which infects more than 25 million sub-Saharan Africans, has left fewer and fewer people able to till the soil.

"African agriculture depends on labor. You can't produce crops if there is nobody to work on the farms," said Annmarie Kormawa of the System-Wide Initiative for HIV/AIDS and Agriculture (SWIHA). The Benin-based initiative collects information on the impact of HIV/AIDS in Africa by interviewing farmers, researchers, administrators, and health workers.

"For the past 20 years since HIV/AIDS was discovered the disease has had a great impact on the African farming community," Kormawa told the meeting. "Agricultural research cannot cure the HIV/AIDS epidemic but it can lessen its impact on survivors."

In Kenya, some areas have seen a 68 percent reduction in cultivated land and a decline in cash crops like coffee, tea, and sugar, said SWIHA. Some parts of Rwanda have experienced 60-80 percent declines in the farm labor force due to HIV/AIDS, while 70 percent of households in Malawi suffered labor shortages following the death of a male. Twenty percent or rural families in Burkina Faso cut agricultural work or gave up farming because of HIV/AIDS.

Kormawa said the pandemic is creating delays in planting and weeding, declines in livestock, falling food quantity and quality, and shrinking farms. SWIHA, she said, is looking at new ways to combat the problem, including planting a drought-resistant strain of rice that needs less water to grow and can increase yields by 50 percent.

Back to other news for September 9, 2005

Adapted from:
09.08.2005; Patricia Reaney

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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