Friday, September 23, 2005

AIDS causing agricultural crisis

It's well-known that AIDS is Africa's worst public health crisis (though malaria is a less well-known second). But the disease is also having devastating economic consequences as well. Scientists say that Africa's agricultural output has dropped dramatically since the onset of the pandemic. They noted that areas of cultivated land in parts of Kenya has dropped by 2/3 and that land still being farmed is often growing less nutritious and profitable crops.

Some 80% of Africans derive their livelihood from farming, so it is vital to the continent's economic growth.... In Rwanda, there has been a 60-80% fall in farm labour. In Burkina Faso, 20% of rural families reduced their agricultural work or even abandoned their farms because of Aids.

It's not a coincidence that the most AIDS-devastated region of the continent, southern Africa, is facing severe food shortages with over 10 million people needing food aid. The crisis has been exacerbated by drought.

I've read that in countries like Zambia, some employers even in commercial jobs routinely hire and train 3 people for every open position, on the expectation that the other 2 will either get sick or have to leave to care for a sick relative.

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