As already indicated, Africa is endowed with enough land to undertake small- and large-scale activities to strengthen household security, national development, transboundary cooperation and regional integration to transform trade, and create new opportunities for sustainable development which is sensitive to the environment and social and economic issues. There are, however, many threats and challenges which continue to undermine such progress, limiting its potential. These include pandemics such as HIV/AIDS, climate variability and change, extreme weather events such as drought and floods, ineffective land-use planning, land degradation and desertification, invasive alien species (IAS), limited or weak governance systems, corruption and greed, armed conflict and the attendant overexploitation of natural resources, and limited foreign direct investment (FDI). Limited domestic investment and wasted opportunities and loss of revenue due to leakage in sectors such as tourism are also important factors.

Box 4: HIV/AIDS and agriculture in Africa
  • HIV/AIDS has killed about 7 million agricultural workers since 1985 in the 25 hardest-hit countries in Africa. About 16 million more could be killed before 2020.
  • The most badly affected African countries could lose up to 26 per cent of their agricultural labour force in two decades.
  • Food consumption has dropped by 40 per cent in homes afflicted by HIV/AIDS.
  • A meagre US$150 million is spent every year in Africa on HIV/AIDS, largely for prevention.
  • In 2000, about 3 million people died of HIV/AIDS and 5.3 million people became infected around the world.
  • By 1999, there were 13.2 million HIV/AIDS orphans, 95 per cent of them in sub-Saharan Africa. ‚óŹ HIV infection rates are three to five times higher in young women than in young men.

  • Source: FAO 2002b

    HIV/AIDS pandemic

    One of the biggest threats to Africa’s capacity to implement the necessary response measures to derive the most benefits from the opportunities available in terms of land is the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

    About 70 per cent of the world’s 42 million people with HIV/AIDS are in Africa, the worst region impacted by the pandemic. More than 25 million Africans have so far succumbed to the pandemic and more than 12 million children have been orphaned. The tragedy is that the very human resources upon whom Africa should depend to convert its land resources into opportunities for sustainable development are being buried in millions every year. About 2.3 million Africans – men and women, and most of them in the prime of their lives as parents and workers – die each year (World Bank undated).

    No economic sector in Africa is spared, and this is Africa’s greatest tragedy of the 21st century which threatens sustainable development in the region. Box 4 illustrates some impacts of HIV/AIDS in the agricultural sector in Africa.

    Other diseases

    Malaria, water-borne diseases, tuberculosis, childhood diseases, tropical diseases, respiratory and nutrition-related diseases are also significant contributors to death (WHO 2004). All diseases affect well-being and labour productivity – some fundamentally undercut production systems. The environment-health connection and its implications for well-being and livelihoods are discussed in Chapter 1: The Human Dimension.

    The tsetse fly is a major threat to people and livestock. About 60 million people in the region are at risk from Human African Trypanosomiasis (HAT), or sleeping sickness, which is spread by the tsetse. Sleeping sickness is found in 36 countries in sub- Saharan Africa. Between 300 000-500 000 cases are reported annually, and it kills about 66 000 people annually (WHO/TDR 2002). The WHO/Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR) reports that although 55 million people are exposed to the risk of infection, only 4 million are under regular surveillance (WHO/TDR and Trends in Parasitology 2002), and the disease has re-emerged since the 1970s (WHO/TDR 2002). In 2002, there were 24 000 deaths from trypanosomiasis (WHO 2004). Authorities often lack, or do not have, adequate economic resources to fund programmes to control sleeping sickness due to competing health priorities. Governments often accord sleeping sickness a low priority, until it assumes the level of an epidemic (TDR/Scientific Working Group 2003). In some countries, sleeping sickness is a major cause of death. In some areas of Angola, the DRC and southern Sudan, its prevalence is between 20 and 50 per cent (WHO 2001), surpassing that of HIV/AIDS.

    About 46 million cattle are at risk of contracting tsetse-transmitted trypanosomiasis in Africa. About 3 million cattle die of Animal African Trypanosomiasis (AAT) annually (FAO undated). In the tsetse-infested areas, trypanosomiasis reduces meat and milk production by at least 50 per cent. It also limits opportunities for farmers in terms of crop and livestock production: there is less efficient nutrient cycling, less access to animal traction, lower income from milk and meat sales and less access to liquid capital (Swallow 1999). The economic losses in cattle production alone are between US$1 000 and 1 200 million annually, while total losses, in terms of agricultural GDP in Africa, amount to about US$4 750 000 million per year (FAO undated).