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Economic vulnerability, beer and HIV/AIDS: The struggle to sustain farmer livelihoods and indigenous sorghum varieties in eastern Uganda


Cecilia Scurrah-Ehrhart (email:


Drawing on a case study from eastern Uganda, this paper describes how social and environmental factors combine to affect the sustainability of both sorghum landraces and the farmers who depend on it for food and income security. It delineates how changing regional patterns of agricultural production and consumption, institutional neglect, economic hardship, natural resource degradation and a labour supply crisis precipitated by the HIV/AIDS pandemic, may be conspiring to place sorghum landraces at risk of extinction and, thus, undermine already precarious livelihoods. The paper therefore challenges the common assumption that marginalized rural women – by virtue of having diverse varieties and species under their care – can be expected to conserve that diversity.