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MALARIA FIGHT: Improving agro-practices can help address insecticide resistance challenges

Oct. 31, 2022
MALARIA FIGHT: Improving agro-practices can help address insecticide resistance challenges
A snip from the BMC journal with an inset of the first author, Dr. Nancy Matowo. GRAPHIC | IFAKARA/KMC.

New findings of a study by researchers from Ifakara Health Institute and partner institutions have underlined the need to improve agricultural practices, including the management of agricultural pesticides which they have urged may contribute to the prevention of insecticide resistance in both mosquitoes and crop pests.

These recommendations were shared in a research paper published on the BMC journal recently. The publication presented results from a research conducted between 2016 and 2018 that involved farmers from the districts of Kilombero and Ulanga in Tanzania’s south-eastern region.

The study aimed to explore the opinions of farmers and key stakeholders on potential approaches for integrating agricultural and public health practices to address resistance in malaria vectors.

A total of 484 farmers from six wards of Katindiuka, Lupiro, Mavimba, Mbasa, Minepa, and Sululu in Kilombero and Ulanga were enrolled in the study in which 57 did an in-depth while 427 participated in a survey. These farmers could not link agricultural pesticide use and insecticide resistance in malaria vectors and were also uninformed of any effects that agricultural pesticides may have on mosquitoes considering “three-quarters of them had never heard of resistance in malaria mosquitoes.”

To create awareness among the farming community about malaria vectors, the use of agricultural pesticides and the likelihood of influencing insecticide resistance in malaria vectors, Ifakara researchers Nancy Matowo, Marceline Finda, Yeromin Mlacha and Fredros Okumu along with Benigni Temba from Sokoine University of Agriculture in Morogoro and Marcel Tanner and Jürg Utzinger from Swiss TPH, Switzerland explored possible ways to engage and empower farmers with basic knowledge and skills on good agricultural practices.

“We held participatory workshops and field training with entomologists, farmers, and agricultural specialists, focusing on agroecosystem practices related to pest control. The study provided a forum for the health researchers and agricultural experts to discuss, interact, actively engage, and empower farming communities with basic knowledge and skills on malaria issues, crop pests, pesticides management, and general good agricultural practices” shared the researchers

During the forum, the majority of the stakeholders acknowledged that agricultural practices have significant implications for malaria vector control and were aware that pesticide usage practices could be the root cause of insecticide resistance in vectors.

While the key stakeholders acknowledged that good agricultural practices, including agrochemicals management, could indirectly minimize the odds of insecticide resistance development in malaria vectors they did, however, warn that pesticides usage for crop protection cannot be fully avoided, but could be minimized, used sparingly, or integrated with non-chemical methods.

The challenge of insecticide resistance is a key barrier to long-term malaria control, and to conclude their study, Ifakara researchers and colleagues have emphasized the significance of “enhancing subsistence farmers’ awareness of mosquito ecology” as well as “applying participatory techniques or approaches” which could raise stakeholder awareness and engagement, resulting in more effective resistance management.

“For successful pesticide resistance control in mosquito and crop pests, regular community participation, advocacy, and integration of agricultural and public health measures to address resistance across researchers, public health, and agricultural sectors are required.”

Link to full study paper: >> https://doi.org/10.1186/S12936-022-04289-1