Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Reducing vector-borne disease by empowering farmers in integrated vector management

Henk van den Berg, Alexander von Hildebrand, Vaithilingam Ragunathan, Pradeep K Das

Problem

Irrigated agriculture exposes rural people to health risks associated with vector-borne diseases and pesticides used in agriculture and for public health protection. Most developing countries lack collaboration between the agricultural and health sectors to jointly address these problems.

Approach

We present an evaluation of a project that uses the “farmer field school” method to teach farmers how to manage vector-borne diseases and how to improve rice yields. Teaching farmers about these two concepts together is known as “integrated pest and vector management”.

Local setting

An intersectoral project targeting rice irrigation systems in Sri Lanka.

Relevant changes

Project partners developed a new curriculum for the field school that included a component on vector-borne diseases. Rice farmers in intervention villages who graduated from the field school took vector-control actions as well as improving environmental sanitation and their personal protection measures against disease transmission. They also reduced their use of agricultural pesticides, especially insecticides.

Lessons learned

The intervention motivated and enabled rural people to take part in vector-management activities and to reduce several environmental health risks. There is scope for expanding the curriculum to include information on the harmful effects of pesticides on human health and to address other public health concerns. Benefits of this approach for community-based health programmes have not yet been optimally assessed. Also, the institutional basis of the integrated management approach needs to be broadened so that people from a wider range of organizations take part. A monitoring and evaluation system needs to be established to measure the performance of integrated management initiatives.

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