The Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) in collaboration with the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations (FAO) on Thursday launched a report on HIV/AIDS and agriculture.
The research, which was jointly implemented by the two institutions, is entitled HIV/AIDS and its Impact on the Agricultural Sector”, a statement issued by the FAO in Accra said.
It said the collaboration followed the recognition by both institutions of the need for action that would enable both the Ministry and FAO to respond effectively to the impact the HIV/AIDS epidemic had on the agricultural population, food security and rural livelihoods.
The study was carried out in Dormaa and Kintampo districts in the Brong-Ahafo region.
It said Dormaa District was selected because of the high HIV prevalence among adults and its border with Cote d'Ivoire and Kintampo District was chosen due to trade activities with a large number of trucks passing through the District, increasing the risk of the spread of the disease.
The statement said field work revealed that most HIV/AIDS affected households experienced a decrease in the area of land cultivated, due to either a lack of farm labour or the need to sell or rent out land to cover medical expenses. They also experienced a reduction in labour productivity, crop and animal production as well as farm incomes.
“Both farmers and agricultural officers in the area were of the view that the impact of the disease would soon be felt at the community and higher levels if the prevalence among farmers continued to rise,” the research revealed.
“If remedial action is not taken, there would be decrease in agricultural production and productivity, food security including a breakdown in the 'Nnoboa' spirit thus increasing level of rural poverty.”
The research showed that farmers were remarkably well informed about HIV and AIDS and its potential impact, but continued to practice risky behaviour, contribute to stigma and discrimination of People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) and feared to undergo HIV-testing.
“This situation contributes to the spread of the epidemic and stresses the need for urgent action to avert conditions that already prevail in countries with high prevalence rates and the existence of large number of orphaned children.”
Among others, the study recommended that HIV/AIDS programmes were linked to poverty reduction and socio-economic development programmes since the spread of the disease is fuelled by poverty and gender inequality.
It stressed the importance of developing such activities with the help of competent local resource persons, influential community members and in close collaboration with other organizations working on HIV/AIDS mitigation, in order to enhance their effectiveness.