Original Paper

Population and Environment

, 29:108

First online:

Demarcating forest, containing disease: land and HIV/AIDS in southern Zambia

  • Emily FrankAffiliated withDepartment of Anthropology, Indiana University
  • , Jon UnruhAffiliated withDepartment of Geography, McGill University Email author 

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The ongoing HIV/AIDS pandemic in southern Africa continues to manifest itself in unexpected ways. While the consequences of the disease appear straightforward in some aspects—e.g., medical, labor, cost—in other respects the repercussions, while large, are nonetheless highly nuanced and can be counterintuitive. This paper reports on the intersection of HIV/AIDS, migration, livelihood adaptation, land tenure, and forest conservation, to outline how adaptation to the pandemic has reworked significant aspects of land tenure to result in increased forest conservation in southern Zambia in the near to medium-term. The research uses a combination of ethnography, case studies, household survey and spatial analyses and finds that HIV/AIDS is used in customary legal settings to enhance land access. We also draw links to practical and theoretical implications of the relationship between HIV/AIDS, land tenure, and deforestation in Sub-Saharan Africa.


HIV/AIDS Deforestation Forest conservation Africa Land tenure Livelihood Adaptation Migration Zambia