HIV/AIDS threatening livestock production, UN agriculture agency warns

30 November 2007

HIV/AIDS is affecting not only humans but is also dramatically impeding livestock production, which is the main source of income for rural households, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) cautioned today.

HIV/AIDS is affecting not only humans but is also dramatically impeding livestock production, which is the main source of income for rural households, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) cautioned today.

Livestock contribute greatly to the incomes and nutrition of some 70 per cent of rural households in developing countries. In East and Southern Africa, livestock account for 13 per cent of GNP, but proportionately more in terms of food security for households.

As more and more people of working age are now living with the virus – nearly two-thirds of all people between the ages of 15 and 49 worldwide living with HIV are in sub-Saharan Africa – fewer people are available to tend to livestock.

In addition to providing income and food, livestock are a source of draught power, manure for fertilizer and fuel. But once family savings are exhausted, animals are sold to cover medical expenses or funeral costs, surveys in sub-Saharan Africa indicate. Selling or slaughtering livestock reduces herd size, leading to fewer products – such as meat, milk, eggs and hides – to eat or sell.

“In Zambia, an FAO study showed that in the past it was fare for HIV-affected households to sell a heifer or milking cow, where now it is common place,” said Simon Mack, Senior Officer in the agency’s Livestock Production Group. “The short and long-term effects of this on family incomes and food security can be devastating.”

FAO called for more research on how the pandemic is impacting livestock production to develop strategies to mitigate the consequences on vulnerable people as well as on the livestock sector.

The agency also pointed out that livestock – especially poultry, sheep and goats, which are easily managed, affordable and have short reproduction cycles – can play a crucial role in mitigating the impact of HIV/AIDS in affected communities by providing households with renewable assets, income and a chance to bolster diets.

 

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