Agriculture’s impact on malaria–PSAE’s research gaining attention
By Caspar van Vark
Raising agricultural productivity is a priority in much of sub-Saharan Africa, where some 70% of people live in rural areas and rely on farming. But 90% of the estimated 660,000 global deaths caused by malaria in 2010 were also in Africa, and agricultural development can play a role in its transmission. How should this be reconciled to create a more “malaria smart” approach to agricultural growth?
One of the main links between malaria and agriculture is irrigation. It’s estimated that irrigation could boost agricultural productivity in Africa by 50% and many development organisations see irrigation as crucial to future development.
But irrigation can also be conducive to mosquitoes, which transmit malaria. Rice, for example, is a staple crop in sub-Saharan Africa and important for food security. It also relies on flooded paddies, which provide breeding sites for mosquitoes such as Anopheles gambiae, one of the principal vectors of malaria.
That can be problematic, but the irrigation-malaria link is complex and varied. For example, research has shown that even where the introduction of irrigation systems increases mosquito density in a given area, malaria transmission can actually decline.