Malaria and Agriculture

The World Development Report 2008: Agriculture for Development. points out starkly that agriculture has been neglected. Evidence exists that rural poverty has actually increased in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, two areas of high malaria endemicity. Therefore the World Bank calls for greater investment in agriculture in developing countries. According to

Jaques Diouf in the International Herald Tribune, rising agricultural commodity prices, climate related disasters, and population increase are among factors threatening food security in the developing world. “World Bank studies show that a 1 percent price rise for staple food products leads to a drop of around 0.5 percent in calorie intake for the world’s poorest.” At the same time Diouf sees opportunities for African agricultural development if past neglect cited in the World Development Report is addressed. One needs to throw malaria into this equation.

dscn1030sm.JPG The World Development Report identifies several ways in which malaria affects agriculture and agriculture affects malaria. Production systems, particularly irrigation and micro dams facilitate mosquito breeding. Generally the siting of villages and farms near water sources increases the likelihood of malaria, and malaria in turn is a major drain on agricultural production. The neglect of agriculture and the farming population over the years has rendered them less able to purchase or access malaria prevention and treatment services.

On the other hand some practices like keeping livestock near the house may deflect mosquitoes from humans. Even better, the Report identified that improved income from agricultural investments actually makes it possible for people to buy ITNs and obtain treatment in a timely manner. The key lesson from the report is that rural development – both in terms of health and agriculture – must be planned together for optimal benefits.

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