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The new variant famine hypothesis: moving beyond the household in exploring links between AIDS and food insecurity in southern Africa

The new variant famine hypothesis: moving beyond the household in exploring links between AIDS and food insecurity in southern Africa

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Original languageEnglish
Pages187-207
Number of pages21
JournalProgress in Development Studies
Journal publication dateJul 2009
Volume9
Issue3
DOIs
StatePublished

Abstract

A number of southern African countries have experienced food crises during recent years. The fact that the scale of these crises has been disproportionate to the apparent triggers of climatic adversity or production decline has led to the suggestion that they are more closely related to the AIDS pandemic, which is at its most extreme in many of the same countries. This hypothesis, developed by de Waal and Whiteside (2003), has been termed ‘New Variant Famine’(NVF). The New Variant Famine hypothesis is helpful in drawing attention to the effects of AIDS in diminishing both food production and capacity to purchase food, but it focuses more intensely on the household level than many other theories that seek to explain food insecurity, which tend to emphasise the integration of peasants into a capitalist market economy, and the functioning of markets and institutions. The household level focus also characterises much research on the impacts of AIDS. In this article we argue that the effects of AIDS on food security are not confined to the household level, and that an NVF analysis should also consider processes operating within and beyond the household including social relationships, relations of age and gender, colonial inheritance and contemporary national and international political economy. Recognition of these processes and how they interact with AIDS may offer greater scope for political mobilisation rather than technocratic responses.

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