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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2016

AIDS-affected young people’s access to livelihood assets: Exploring ‘new variant famine’ in rural southern Africa

Ansell, Nicola; Hajdu, Flora; van Blerk, Lorraine; Robson, Elsbeth


The 'new variant famine' hypothesis suggests AIDS is contributing to food insecurity in southern Africa. Proposed causal mechanisms include a loss of livelihood assets and skills, brought about through AIDS' impacts on children's access to inherited property and intergenerationally-transferred knowledge. This paper employs a sustainable livelihoods framework to examine how AIDS is impacting on young people's access to assets and skills in two southern African countries: Malawi and Lesotho. Drawing on qualitative research with rural youth, the paper shows that AIDS affects some young people's access to some livelihood assets, but does not do so in a systematic or predictable way, nor are its impacts invariably negative. The broader cultural and institutional context is of key importance. The paper also demonstrates the need for the sustainable livelihoods framework to take greater account of the temporalities of livelihoods, and in particular the significance of lifecourse and generation. (C) 2016 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY license.


Children; HIV; Livelihoods; Rural; Youth; Southern Africa

Published in

Journal of Rural Studies
2016, volume: 46, pages: 23-34

Authors' information

Ansell, Nicola
Brunel University London
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Urban and Rural Development
van Blerk, Lorraine
University of Dundee
Robson, Elsbeth
University of Hull

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG2 Zero hunger
SDG1 End poverty in all its forms everywhere

UKÄ Subject classification

Human Geography

Publication Identifiers


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