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Document Abstract
Published: 2009

Averting ‘New Variant Famine’ in Southern Africa: building food secure rural livelihoods with AIDS-affected young people

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Southern Africa is experi-encing the world’s highest HIV prevalence rates alongside recurrent food crises. This has prompted scholars to hypothesise a 'New Variant Famine' in which inability to access food is driven by the ef-fects of AIDS. In line with this, it has been suggested that the impacts of AIDS on young people today is likely to diminish their prospects of food security in adult life. In particular, children whose parents die of AIDS may fail to inherit land or other pro-ductive assets, and trans-mission of knowledge and skills between the genera-tions may be disrupted, leaving young people ill-prepared to build food-secure livelihoods for themselves. However, prior to this research, those propositions were largely untested.

The ‘Averting New Vari-ant Famine’ research pro-ject was therefore under-taken to generate new, in-depth understanding of how AIDS, in interaction with other factors, is im-pacting on the livelihood activities, opportunities and choices of young peo-ple in rural southern Africa.

Research was conducted in two villages in Malawi and Lesotho, two of the worst affected countries, and fieldwork included participatory research with 10-24-year-olds in each community (around half of whom were affected by AIDS) to explore their aspirations, means of accessing livelihood oppor-tunities, obstacles faced and decision-making processes.

Policy recommendations:

  • focusing on increasing school attendance is an inadequate response
  • rural young people would benefit particularly from opportunities for vocational training and development of market opportunities
  • measures to improve access to productive assets such as land
  • social protection measures that allow young people to devote their energies to accruing livelihood assets to depend on in the long term
  • however, targeting of AIDS-affected youth is not advocated
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