Mitigating the impact of HIV and AIDS on rural livelihoods: building on Southern African experiences to chart a way forward

A variety of interventions to mitigate the increasing impact of the HIV and AIDS epidemic on smallholder agricultural production and food security are currently implemented in sub-Saharan Africa. However, documentation and dissemination of such interventions is limited and patchy. Building on emerging experiences from the field, this article seeks to move beyond charting the impacts of HIV and AIDS on rural livelihoods and to review existing mitigation policies and programmes, identify the challenges to mitigation, and provide suggestions for future mitigation strategies and policy priorities. The experiences cited in the article are mainly drawn from the hardest hit Southern and Eastern African regions, but these provide useful lessons for AIDS-affected rural communities in other contexts. The main conclusion is that, as current initiatives are to a large extent ad hoc and localised, there is a need for documentation, dissemination, and scaling up of existing interventions, as well as greater coherence and coordination in policies and programmes to extend their reach and make the most of limited resources.