Examination of Witnesses (Questions 440
TUESDAY 11 JULY 2000
(Mr du Guerny) So it is very difficult, let us say,
for an agency like FAO to barge ahead in the area of AIDS if the
Member States at the FAO Conference do not give instructions in
this direction. This is something which is I think a very important
issue. At the Conferences of FAO etc our bosses are the ministers
of agriculture. Now the ministries of agriculture are a bit at
a loss in the area of AIDS and, therefore, the problem is a bit
of a chicken and egg issue, it is how to get them sufficiently
aware so that they will give a mandate and instructions to move
in this direction. Our studies have shown that the health approach
in all this is very important. We all hope for a vaccine and things
like that but, meanwhile, there are other developmental strategies
which can be helpful. These strategies need to be identified with
the ministries of agriculture but it is not easy to start this
process because the ministries of agriculture say "We are
not used to doing this, we do not know what to do. How do we go
about this? You tell us". Now we do not really know either
because it is a process where we are facing a new situation and
it is something which has to be jointly explored. In an agency
like FAO, other departments of agriculture say "Where is
the mandate from the ministries of agriculture?". We have
to get out of this situation. We are beginning to get out of it
but it has been a slow process. To come back to rethinking, I
think at this stage whether it is agricultural policies and programmes,
whether it is educational policies and programmes, in the strongly
affected countries they have to be reconsidered, it cannot be
business as usual. In many ways what has to be done in this rethinking
is development which has not been taken seriously enough previously.
AIDS does not mean that one has to do things which have never
existed before, it means one has to take the education of children
much more seriously and we have to consider what it is it that
is really important for them to learn within their context and
the world they will be facing. For the ministries of agriculture,
there should be rural credit, for example, or do we leave it all
to loan sharks? I was in a South East Asian country not so long
ago and AIDS leads to the sale of land and this is a desperate
situation, of course, for a farmer, it is the last thing they
want to do but they are all indebted. In between two crops when
they are at the lowest, that is when the loan sharks come by and
start asking for reimbursements and they are unable to reimburse.
At that time, of course, as if by accident, some traffickers also
show up and say they can help out "if you give us one of
your daughters to take to the city". So if a farmer is faced
between the choice of selling his land, which is the end for the
whole family, or selling a daughter, of course it is not a real
choice. These things really exist. That is why rural credit then
becomes important because it gives some more resilience to people
who would otherwise find themselves in totally desperate situations.
Chairman: Yes. I think we should go
on to the response to the impact of HIV/AIDS and perhaps Mr Khabra
could lead us in those questions.
441. The Committee has heard evidence that there
are community coping mechanisms to support households and children
in distress. Are such mechanisms coping with the effects of HIV/AIDS?
What sort of support do they provide and how can they be assisted
by governments and donors? Finally, what can be done to provide
alternative means of income generation?
(Mr du Guerny) I think, as I mentioned, all these
farm household systems are traditionally designed to be as resilient
as possible because they have always faced disasters throughout
history. They can only take a certain intensity of shock or certain
kinds of shock and AIDS, as I mentioned, because of the way it
works is a protracted disease etcetera and because it hits the
adults it turns out to be the kind of shock that most are not
able to absorb. That way when one talks about coping mechanisms,
sometimes it is a bit misleading because in many cases they are
not able to cope and it leads to the impoverishment and destruction
of the farm household. Otherwise there are coping mechanisms,
such as we have mentioned with the changing agricultural practices
and things like that, sending other children out to migrate, either
to reduce the pressure on the household but also in the hope that
they will get some remittances, be able to send something. This
is where one can explore community responses and where I think
with the governments and NGOS, etc., one has to set up obviously
partnerships in order to increase the resilience. That depends
in each case on the type of epidemic one is facing. In some cases
it can be through improving land tenure systems, it can be through
improving rural credit, it can be through modifying the way in
which extension workers work because the normal extension worker
is used to dealing with an adult to push commercial crops and
now the extension worker might have to deal with orphans and try
to help them just survive. The extension worker has learnt how
to promote coffee or bananas, etcetera, and has to be retrained
in order to learn how to deal with a 14 or 15 year old. You do
not approach and talk to them in the same way, you have to be
aware of their situation and the kind of help they need. They
have no access to rural credit because they are minors, so are
there other ways to help them? They do not have the strength to
manoeuvre heavy beasts, animals like oxen, so can they be taught
to plough using lighter animals such as donkeys, etcetera? That
is why I say the Ministry of Agriculture has to rethink its strategies.
Also it is itself affected by the AIDS epidemic. The staff of
the ministries of agriculture are being decimated in some cases.
They are often losing extension workers, they are losing highly
qualified staff and they can be extremely difficult to replace.
So, for example, in a decentralisation process where you have
the capital with the Ministry, then you have the provinces at
district level, etcetera, sometimes they might have to consider
shortening the chain of command in order to save on staff because
there are less staff available. There are problems, also, of when
you lose a specialist in irrigation in an area, it is not necessarily
easy to replace them. You do not necessarily have another one
available. One has to reorganise the geographic areas for which
staff are responsible and you have to do it in such a way that
they are still effective. This is a big challenge to a Ministry
like the Ministry of Agriculture. We have found out that in some
cases it is very difficult for them to adjust to some of the things
because the way they run their staff is determined by a Civil
Service Commission, etcetera, which is outside of them so it makes
it more difficult for them to adjust because they have to get
the Civil Service Commission or whatever to start changing the
rules also. It is going to be a complex process for ministries
to adjust to the impact of the epidemic and to respond. Also it
creates a lot of cost for the ministries because replacing qualified
staff is something which is extremely expensive. It creates all
kinds of disruptions in the way the ministry functions because
people have to attend funerals.
(Mr du Guerny) In the ministry often there are practices
of helping out the family so suddenly the ministry, which is already
constrained in its resource level, finds itself having to divert
scarce resources to areas which it did not consider before in
order to support its staff and mitigate the impact of the epidemic
on its staff. This is quite a new problem for these ministries
and it is not quite like downsizing through Structural Adjustment
Programmes or something like that because that you can think out
and plan whereas here you are responding to something which is
hitting you, so it does not work according to plan. You do not
decide that you will favour more the irrigation or another area,
the epidemic hits more these people than others and there is nothing
you can do about it. This is an entirely new area which is quite
443. For these reasons do you not think, Mr
du Guerny, that FAO should have been a co-sponsor of UNAIDS?
(Mr du Guerny) FAO has been an active member of the
inter-agency advisory group. I was Chairman myself of the group
in 1996 and 1997 and while I was Chairman I did revise the terms
of reference with the group in order to put more emphasis on developmental
issues so that it would be more balanced, not just between health
and development. We have been promoting developmental issues and
particularly issues concerning rural populations, etcetera, within
UNAIDS and with the other co-sponsors. We do work closely with
UNAIDS. We work closely with UNDP. We also work in discussions
with the World Bank and, of course, with WHO. The two key groups
we work with have been UNAIDS and UNDP. In fact they have been
funding most of the FAO studies because FAO itself did not have
the resources to conduct them.
444. What is an alternative means of income
generation for improving households?
(Mr du Guerny) Yes, sorry, I had not answered that
question before. The first thing is to ensure their food security.
Producing their own food becomes essential. So all these household
gardens, etcetera, with a variety of things is extremely important.
The income generation, generally this happens through migration.
This is where going back to education is important. These children
who migrate to the city, will they end up as street children because
they have no skills or can one already in the rural areas train
them in certain things so that they do have a chance of finding
some means of supporting themselves? If they are trained a bit
in masonry and carpentry or whatever, this would increase their
chances of having access to income and, therefore, to send remittances.
In the rural areas themselves, in the farm household, they are
already working all day so it is very difficult for them to absorb
new activities. I think the important thing is to ensure their
food security within their own household and then for the income
to ensure those who go to the city or to work on a plantation
or something like that have the right skills so they have a chance
to get a job and have something which is better paid.
445. You mentioned education a number of times.
How should the education and child labour policies and programmes
of developing countries' governments and donors be affected by
the withdrawal of children from schools and the growing number
(Mr du Guerny) This is a difficult question. Perhaps
one has to consider a more technical and professional kind of
education at earlier ages because we have to be realistic. This
is not a question of conventions, of saying children should stay
in school until the age of 16, etcetera. If they are going to
become orphaned at the age of 13 or 14, it is an ideal but what
do the children do, they have to survive. The question then I
think is early on to ensure that they acquire all the indispensable
skills, including agricultural skills, which often they do not
acquire. That is something where extension workers could play
a role also. In areas where AIDS is prevalent one should have
policies as if the household is going to be affected. So stress
the education and the skills at the earliest age. Ensure that
the children already know how to grow certain things, so whether
they learn to do it in school or at home, all this depends on
the local situation and one can think of many diverse strategies.
That should be absolutely necessary. What are the minimum skills
to survive in a city is something all the rural kids should know
also. Otherwise they go to the city and they are open to any exploitation
which increases the risk that they themselves will become infected.
(Mr du Guerny) Then it is a never ending story.
Chairman: How are we going to train their
teachers? Ann Clwyd can you continue with these difficult questions.
447. Yes. I think you have actually answered
most of the questions I was going to ask you about the loss of
agricultural productivity and you have already made it clear that
the loss of a parent or both parents obviously leads to that.
(Mr du Guerny) Yes.
448. What evidence did you gather to support
(Mr du Guerny) There have been a number of surveys
in East Africa mostly and, since we mentioned working together
with other parts of the UN, these were funded by UNDP. Now we
have surveys funded jointly by UNDP and UNAIDS. They were small
scale surveys because the resources were limited but they were
focused on the households and this was very clear. We did get
quite a lot of evidence and recently we got evidence also on what
happens for livestock and that is quite interesting. As one goes
up towards the semi arid and arid zones of course livestock often
becomes more important. That had been a bit overlooked in the
first surveys. Livestock represents status but is also the bank
on the hoof. You do not put your money in the bank, you buy livestock.
So, of course with every disease the herds get depleted, they
are not well looked after and we have a little bit of evidence
that when only the children are left, what remains of the livestock
tends to disappear because the children do not know how to look
after them so they just die or are stolen or whatever. I think
there we need also a specific strategy of what to do.
449. Has any use been made specifically of the
elderly or grandparents as a way of replacing that lost knowledge?
(Mr du Guerny) Yes. The grandparents, where they exist,
play an essential role. One of the difficulties is that knowledge
changes. The agricultural practices now are not those of 20 or
30 years ago. Therefore, the grandparents might not know of the
more recent developments. Even if the grandparents play an indispensable
role in supporting the orphans, they might still have an impact
on the process of agriculture development. Agriculture is a very
complex thing and to run a farm household system, it is like running
a business firm, it requires all kinds of different operations
which are often difficult to imagine in view of the very specialist
tasks/jobs one often has in an urban environment. You have to
know a bit about breeding, you have to know about the weather,
you have to know so many different things. This is why division
of labour is important, because it is very difficult for one person
to have all these skills. That is why the transmission of knowledge
is so important and reverting back to the grandparents, because
of the improvement in modern knowledge, it is broken. Some of
the things can only be acquired by long experience. You cannot
just be told once how to select seeds, for example, it is through
practice that slowly you learn which are the better ones. Anything
which requires practice is also a problem.
450. Can any greater use be made of radio or
television, where it exists, to pass on some of that knowledge?
(Mr du Guerny) I think this is certainly an area which
should be developed. Firstly, I think what is really important
would be to try and assist ministries of agriculture, NGOs who
are involved in rural development etcetera., to think out what
would be the most appropriate strategies so that one really knows
what to tell the people and also to set up networks between rural
institutions, between the ministries of agriculture, because there
is no point everybody repeating the same experiments. There can
be again perhaps a certain division of labour if there are the
right networks between ministries themselves but also with NGOs
and the private sector, etcetera.
451. Are there any examples of best practice
where schemes have been introduced to pool agricultural knowledge
in a community?
(Mr du Guerny) UNAIDS has a series called best practice
and actually we are bringing out one or two papers there. In fact,
in our case it is a little bit misleading because we really do
not have this, it is too new to really know. We have reached the
stage where we really have to design these things. We have done
all the background work, especially on impacts, now the issue
is what to do and how to do it, we are on very uncertain ground.
How can the ministries move and what do they do since they are
weakened, what should they try to have done by somebody else,
NGOs or private or whatever, all this is something where we are
in uncharted territory?
Chairman: Can we talk about the commercial
agricultural sector and Nigel Jones would like to lead us on that.
452. I wanted to ask if there has been any analysis
of the impact of HIV/AIDS on the commercial agricultural sector?
Is that sector doing enough to advise people how to prevent HIV/AIDS
or mitigate the impact of it?
(Mr du Guerny) We have done some studies in Kenya.
We have found that commercial agriculture was affected because
unskilled labour might seem cheap but it still is costly to replace.
It is not as unskilled as it appears to be, they always have some
skills. Therefore, when the replacement arrives that person has
to learn. You also have skilled people in the commercial agricultural
sector, managers, etcetera, and their costs, they can be extremely
difficult to replace because they really know the plantation etcetera,
and you cannot just bring in a very good agronomist or whatever
from the outside to run the plantation overnight. Plus, many of
these plantations, like if they are into sugar or things like
that, their machinery can be of a particular type, it can be old,
etcetera. When the workers who are running these machines fall
sick and die, you cannot just replace them like that and at the
same time, because these workers knew how to repair these machines,
you often find they are old machines, there are no more spare
parts, etcetera, so this means changing some of the equipment
which leads to all kinds of expense. The plantations have been
affected in all their costs in health schemes, in the absenteeism
of the workers and all this kind of thing. Plantations are by
definition commercial, they are there for profit and anything
which affects the profit, of course, is a problem for them. We
have even seen in one case in the study done in Kenya a company
selling the plantations because the costs were rising too much
and the plantation was becoming less competitive in a globalising
economy. In these plantations with the cost of labour, even if
the salaries are very, very low, all the differences can have
an impact. Also, some of these plantations, since there is not
necessarily very formal forms of social security "
some are more organised than others " they still have
responsibilities vis a vis the workers so they have to
give days off for sickness, they have to give days off for funerals,
they have to pay for the transport of a body back to the village
with some people to accompany it. Some companies I have heard
have even bought what is called a sort of funeral bus in order
to transport the workers who accompany the funerals. All this
leads to disruption, of course, in the plantation. Even when the
work is contracted out, like in sugar, often it is small farmers
who produce the sugar cane but because they look after the sugar
less well one needs more tonnes of sugar cane to produce one tonne
of sugar. There are many ways in which the cost can be affected.
The commercial sector has begun in Kenya to organise itself. It
is aware of this and it has been setting up projects for orphans.
It has been trying to do prevention, more education campaigns
and things like that. They are beginning to respond.
453. Mr du Guerny, we have to make some recommendations
on the future for agriculture and sustainable agriculture policies
to the Department for International Development and, indeed, to
other bilateral lenders. I wondered what you would recommend to
us or what you would suggest we recommend the Department for International
Development actually does about changing the way in which it tries
to help agriculture to change in view of the impact of HIV/AIDS
which you have been so interestingly telling us?
(Mr du Guerny) I think we have reached a point now
where we have to really mobilise the agricultural institutions.
(Mr du Guerny) We have the background knowledge necessary.
We have to mobilise them and that would require advocacy with
ministries of agriculture, with donors, etc. Would donors be willing
to support activities in this area rather than more traditional
health orientated activities? Right now resources go more towards
health. We need to get together ministers of agriculture, heads
of departments in various fields like livestock, irrigation, to
make them aware of a number of issues but also to work out what
would be the policy implications and to assist in the process
of developing the appropriate and most effective policies under
the circumstances. I think we also need to alert the countries
where prevalence in rural areas is not so high yet. If we could
really stop the epidemic from developing too much in rural areas
in parts of Africa, that would be an important contribution. One
of the problems is that governments, institutions, everybody tends
to react once the situation is bad. It is very difficult to get
real prevention before you see the damage.
(Mr du Guerny) Since the development activities should
really be done anyway, it is not necessarily a wasted investment
to do this kind of development activity if there is no epidemic.
Even if there would not be it still would be good for development.
So I think trying to really make ministries of agriculture aware
in the countries which have not yet been hard hit is very important.
456. Probably nowhere more important than India,
(Mr du Guerny) Yes.
457. Or China.
(Mr du Guerny) China, South East Asia.
(Mr du Guerny) Thailand is one of the success stories
but certainly countries like Cambodia and Vietnam are at high
risk of having important future epidemics.
(Mr du Guerny) They are in a situation where there
is a very rapid change happening. The economic crisis is not going
to last forever, they are emerging. The social upheavals due to
very rapid economic development are tremendous. It is going to
be a melting pot of people moving around so these are conditions
which are very propitious for the development of the epidemic.
I think there also it is necessary to get the ministries of agriculture
on board as soon as possible. Sri Lanka also, Bangladesh, I think
all those countries. I do not think it would be exactly like in
Africa but the numbers there of populations are often much larger
than in Africa so even small percentages result in tragedies on
a large scale. It is something which should not be overlooked.
Fertility has already gone down much more in those countries so
it is a different demographic context. As was pointed out, the
land tenure systems are different. A lot of work needs to be done.
The surveys which have been done in Africa, we cannot just transpose
the findings or the conclusions to South East Asia.