UN sets up farm training schools for AIDS orphans in sub-Saharan Africa

9 May 2005

With many AIDS orphans in sub-Saharan Africa unable to farm because their parents died without passing on essential skills, the United Nations agricultural agency has set up 34 field schools to help provide the enthusiastic children with farming know-how and other life skills.

With many AIDS orphans in sub-Saharan Africa unable to farm because their parents died without passing on essential skills, the United Nations agricultural agency has set up 34 field schools to help provide the enthusiastic children with farming know-how and other life skills.

The specially designed Junior Farmer Field and Life Schools for orphaned children in Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia and Zambia are targeting around 1,000 young people, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which is working with the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and other UN agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and local institutions to set up the courses.

The schools will help to recover or sustain traditional knowledge about indigenous crops, medicinal plants and biodiversity. In addition the schools aim to share agricultural knowledge, business skills and life skills with orphans and vulnerable children between 12 and 18. The knowledge and skills acquired by the young girls and boys should help them to develop positive values regarding gender equality and human rights.

“The objective of the schools is to empower the orphans through knowledge and self-esteem and to give them essential elements for their long-term food security. These training courses are an important starting point to get AIDS orphans out of hunger and poverty. They offer survival strategies in often very difficult environments,” said Marcela Villarreal, Director of FAO's Gender and Population Division.

Of the estimated 34 million orphans in sub-Saharan Africa, more than 11 million lost their parents to AIDS. By 2010, it is estimated that up to 20 million children could lose one or both parents to the disease. Children orphaned by AIDS and living in rural areas are particularly at risk from malnutrition, disease, abuse and sexual exploitation.

The threat of sexual exploitation is particularly high for those left alone to cope with poverty and forced to earn money to support their families. After the death of their parents, the children often become heads of household and have to search for ways to make an income, a difficult task in rural areas with few job opportunities, services and little infrastructure.

The schools cover both traditional and modern agriculture. Children learn about field preparation, sowing and transplanting, weeding, irrigation, pest control, utilization and conservation of available resources, utilization and processing of food crops, harvesting, storage and marketing skills.

 

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