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tions determines a distinctive morbidity-mortality pattern among agricultural workers. A large number of rural workers live in extremely primitive conditions, often without adequate food, water supply or sanitation or access to health care. Poor diet combined with diseases prevalent among the rural population (such as malaria, tuberculosis, gastrointestinal disorders, anemia, etc.), occupational disorders, and complications arising from undiagnosed or untreated diseases can be deadly and is certainly debilitating. A vicious circle of poor health, reduced working capacity, low productivity and shortened life expectancy is a typical outcome, particularly for the most vulnerable groups, such as those working in subsistence agriculture (i.e., wage workers in plantations, landless daily paid laborers, temporary and migrant workers and child laborers).

     While difficult to quantify, child labor in agriculture is known to be widely prevalent. It is estimated that of the 250 million working children in the world, roughly 70% are active in agriculture. Many of these children work directly for a wage or as part of a family group, exposed to the same work hazards as adults; they endure long daily and weekly hours of work under strenuous conditions. Exposure to agrochemicals, injuries due to machinery or tools, and the repeated shouldering of heavy loads have a negative impact on their health and development with life-long consequences. Conditions of poverty, including poor housing, an inadequate diet and lack of sanitation, little access to health care and loss of educational opportunity, compound these health problems and mortgage their future (ILO, 2006).

HIV/AIDS and its effects on rural livelihoods

The HIV/AIDS epidemic provides a compelling example of the linkages among poverty, illness, food insecurity and loss of productive capacity as well as the differentiated effects on sufferers, caregivers, other family members and the wider community. An estimated 40.3 million people were living with HIV in 2005, two-thirds of whom were in sub-Saharan Africa, where agriculture is the mainstay of most economies and women comprise the backbone of the agricultural labor force. In that region, 57% of adults (15-49) living with HIV were women (UNAIDS and WHO, 2005).

     While the epidemic affects people of all ages and in all walks of life, the disease cuts to the heart of the rural economy, afflicting adults in the prime of life, reducing their capacity to earn a living and provide for their families, whether from off-farm activities or from cultivation of the land. Women and girls, who already carry out the bulk of the work in small-scale, labor-intensive agriculture, split their waking hours between care for the sick and the orphaned, their traditional productive work and additional tasks taken on to compensate for the lost labor of family members struck down by the disease (UNAIDS and WHO, 2005).

     The viability of rural households is undermined by the loss of family labor and the increased cash requirements to meet medical costs and eventually funeral expenses, which can trigger sales of crops, livestock, farm tools and other assets. The death of a male head of household can lead to destitution for wives and children in societies where customary law prevents women from inheriting property, or where "widow inheritance" transfers a surviving wife to another


male family member. Stigmatization further marginalizes surviving family members from the community (UNAIDS, 2005).

     HIV/AIDS has become a major factor in the pervasiveness of food insecurity, as it undermines farm families' ability to cultivate adequate food for their members. Irregular and poor quality nutrition, in turn, hastens the onset of AIDS in those weakened by HIV and increases vulnerability to opportunistic infections.

     The global labor force had lost 28 million economically active people to AIDS by 2005, a figure which is expected to rise to 48 million by 2010 and 74 million by 2015. Twothirds of these labor losses will be in Africa, where four countries are expected to lose over 30% of their workforce by 2015 (ILO, 2005). Fewer workers mean more families left without providers, more children left without parents, and the loss of transmission of knowledge, skills and values from one generation to the next. Orphans are left in the care of the elderly or to fend for themselves in poverty and without access to education.

     Agriculture and health are interlinked in complex ways. Agriculture produces the products on which humanity depends for its health-food-and yet, most of the poverty and malnutrition in the world is found in rural areas among those who work in agriculture. AKST has an important role to play in ensuring that future food supplies are available to meet growing demand for nutritious, safe and health-giving foods so that these can be made available at affordable prices to those who need them most.

1.3.3 Environment and natural resources

Natural resource issues

Natural resources are an indispensable basis for agriculture. A range of ecosystems produce the wide range of goods and services on which human survival depends. Production of these goods and services, including those related to agriculture such as food, is supported by a range of basic natural resources including soil, water and air. The demand for food will continue to rise as the human population increases, and while in the short-to-medium term production is expected to rise to meet this demand, there is growing concern about the vulnerability of the productive capacity of many agroecosystems to stress imposed by intensification, e.g., water scarcity and soil degradation (Thrupp, 1998; Conway, 1999; MA, 2005c; CA, 2007). Thus for instance, loss of biodiversity through simplification of habitats when monocultures are established in large areas is a major concern (Ormerod et al., 2003). The negative impact of increased soil erosion on downstream aquatic ecosystems and other activities such as fisheries can also be discerned. The positive and negative impacts of chemical inputs, particularly inorganic fertilizers and pesticides, are also well documented.

     Sustainable use of natural resources is critical for sustainable livelihoods, and it has a direct impact on the improvement of natural capital. Both the poor and the rich impact the environment. Where access is easy and extraction is not capital-intensive, poor people may overuse natural resources; the poor also tend to be the most vulnerable to the effects of environmental degradation. By contrast, where extraction is highly capital intensive-such as in the case of