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Statement of problem
Since its discovery as a virulent disease, malaria remains a global scourge affecting millions of people especially in Africa. Research has linked the prevalence of the disease to certain phenomena like agriculture. This case study analyses the relationship between malaria and agriculture and some of the measures which have been put in place to lower the occurrence of the disease.
With over twenty percent of the community staying with malaria and close to thirty children dying every day, it is believed that malaria causes a wide range of effects including but not limited to headache and fatigue (Mutero, 2003). Besides the problem of malaria and how countless families get affected, the living standards of farmers are of great concern with poverty dominating the main rice-growing region in Kenya, Mwea.
In addressing the above policy problem, there are a number of objectives which have to be set with the involvement of the wider community. The main goal has to focus on controlling mosquito breeding and spread of malaria. It is obvious that the population of mosquitoes around Mwea is too high, a factor which has significantly contributed to the spread of malaria.
Since mosquitoes breed in water, it would be important to minimize the amount of water used by farmers on farms for the cultivation of the crop (Mutero, 2003). Another objective is ensuring that the needs of farmers and those staying in the region are well catered for in alleviating their living standards and mitigating the impact of malaria.
Besides this promotion of living standards, acquisition of inputs has to be affordable since most farmers find it hard to effectively cultivate their farms and promote good environmental standards alongside high productivity.
In helping farmers and Mwea residents to fight malaria, it is important to subsidize the cost of recommended drugs which can cure malaria as compared to countless drugs which have become relevant due to the mosquito acquired resistance (Mutero, 2003).
In weighing options to fight malaria in Mwea region, it is worth noting that there is no single method which can be employed in making this dream possible. Several options have to be considered based on the fact that some of the causes of wide spread malaria are complex and intertwined.
These options must therefore be geared towards providing workable solutions encompassing biophysical and socioeconomic aspects (Mutero, 2003). The first option which has to be considered is the improvement of water management.
This can be achieved through a number of ways which may include the reduction of time spent when paddies are damp. By changing the schedules for flooding and alternating rice with a different type of crop like soya, it is possible to lower the leve of water in paddies which would in turn negatively affect the breeding of mosquitoes since they rely on stagnant water for reproduction (Mutero, 2003).
In other words, this approach would limit the habitat for mosquitoes and significantly affect their multiplication in Mwea area and its environs. Additionally, alternative crops like soya are capable of utilizing excess water in the fields which would have otherwise attracted mosquitoes to breed and spread malaria.
Another option is using livestock as mosquito bait. It has been found that some mosquitoes in Mwea region prefer sucking cattle blood to human thus lowering the risk of spreading malaria causing organisms within the surrounding community.
How then can the population of cattle be maintained without straining the existing limited resources? By utilizing rice husks as animal feed, farmers would maximally make use of rice products and economically rare cattle on the same farm instead of burning the husks as waste.
These cattle would divert the attention of mosquitoes with preliminary findings having indicated that families with highest population of livestock had the lowest malaria prevalence (Mutero, 2003).
In addressing the issue in a manner that is friendlier, it would be prudent for farmers and other stakeholders to consider biological methods of mosquito control. The most viable option for this would be introducing bacteria in stagnant water; it would be possible to kill mosquito larvae especially when this exercise is carried out at the peak season of their breeding.
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This option is considered less lethal to the environment and to human beings since no chemicals are used and the bacteria placed in stagnant water usually occurs naturally (Mutero, 2003). From this segment, it can be clearly been seen that the efforts aimed at creating an environment that is friendly and does not promote the spread of mosquitoes.
In additional, the options have been analyzed for the purpose of ascertaining their possible effects on human beings with all of them testing positive.
Analysis of options
As mentioned above, water management is crucial and of significance in controlling mosquitoes and ensuring that Mwea region in Kenya is healthy and safe for human inhabitation and for maximum utilization of existing resources. For instance, serial foods like soya are known for their high protein content which is essential in our bodies.
It therefore follows that farmers in the rice scheme are likely to have another source of proteins to meet the needs of their households besides using the same piece of land for rice production. With research indicating that a high percentage of children in Mwea suffer from lack of proteins, there is no doubt that soya farming would be the best option in not only managing the level of water in paddies but also in providing vital body nutrients (Mutero, 2003).
This deficiency is attributed to the fact that farmers in the region solely depend on rice as their main meal that is served three times in some of households.
The main disadvantage of this option would be the need to equip farmers with soya farming skills which are different from the ones they are used to for rice production. Similarly, farmers would require extra inputs for this exercise to be effective in water management and as a source of human food.
On the other hand, the use of cattle in diverting the attention of blood-sucking mosquitoes would be quite economical for farmers and the best way of utilizing resources. By converting rice husks into animal feed, farmers would obtain animal products like milk and beef besides lowering the risky of malaria infection.
Like soya production, this approach would require extra incentives and technical knowhow for farmers to fully embrace this integration without compromising rice production. This could be seen as extra cost by some farmers who may not be willing to spend an extra coin in acquiring several heads of cattle.
Lastly, the use of biological methods would be environmentally safe thus guaranteeing the wellbeing of both human beings and the entire environment.
From the above case study analysis, it is clear that the issue of malaria in Mwea has intertwined factors which have contributed to its escalation. Through these interconnections, there is no doubt that effective and viable recommendations are necessary.
Firstly, public education is necessary for farmers to understand the existing relationship between malaria and agriculture. This would augment adoption of discussed options like water management, cattle rearing and planting of soya among others. The government should also provide incentives to help farmers acquire prerequisite farm inputs for effective farming.
Mutero, C. (2003). Malaria and Agriculture in Kenya. International Development Research Centre. Web.