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“The only thing necessary for these diseases to the triumph is for good people and governments to do nothing.”


Local agricultural knowledge key to fighting
HIV/AIDS and food insecurity

SOUTHERN AFRICA: Local agricultural knowledge key to fighting HIV/AIDS and
food insecurity

JOHANNESBURG, 4 September (PLUSNEWS) - The explosive impact of HIV/AIDS on food security in Africa is now well recognized. But little has been done to
empower rural communities with local resources to cope with this crisis, a
report has found.

"The tendency is for donors and NGOs to merely assist by providing aid.
While this is needed, people also have the capacities to cope, and their
approaches are sometimes more tangible. Sometimes aid and [agricultural]
policies don't reach the most vulnerable," Josep Gari, author of the report
commissioned by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), told PlusNews.

The rural poor have always relied on biological resources such as different
crop varieties, medicinal plants and livestock to meet their basic needs.
Their knowledge base of farming practices and resource conservation was also
often the only asset they had available, the report, "Agro-biodiversity
Strategies to Combat Food Insecurity and HIV/AIDS Impact in Rural Africa",


But agro-biodiversity and indigenous knowledge were "unique" grassroots
responses to food insecurity and HIV/AIDS that were being neglected.

"Agro-biodiversity represents locally available and affordable resources with
untapped potential for food security, HIV/AIDS mitigation and sustainable
rural livelihoods," the report found.

It suggested several strategies for creating more opportunities to improve
nutrition cope with labor constraints and ensure the economic security of
the household in the face of HIV/AIDS.

Traditional and neglected crops were a "relevant agricultural asset" that
could enrich local diets and feed children and sick people, while
contributing to soil conservation and fertilization.

Home gardens that included leafy vegetables, fruit, beans and spices were
excellent sources of nutrients. "However, home gardens and their associated
plant diversity tend to be neglected in agricultural development
programmes," the report remarked.

A seed system that would improve seed security at the community level by
paying special attention to the poorest and most seed-insecure farmers was
recommended. Community initiatives, for example, should develop seed banks,
rural seed fairs and appropriate seed technology transfer.


Traditional healers had a role to play in strengthening community-based
health care systems, as people could use affordable medicinal plants and
herbal treatments to address opportunistic infections. Traditional healers
also could raise awareness and provide advice on nutrition and health

Nevertheless, these strategies were not designed to identify a 'miracle'
crop or crop variety. "It is rather a new vision of agriculture, where the
goal is for farmers to maintain, develop and exchange a broad crop genetic
diversity to better meet their fundamental food, nutrition and livelihood
needs," the study noted.

"Efforts devoted to agro-biodiversity and indigenous knowledge ... will
ensure that rural youth and children have steady access to the resources and
knowledge required to become good farmers, to farm successfully, and to
confront the many challenges ahead," the report concluded.

For the report: