The paddy, the vector and the caregiver: Lessons from an ecosystem approach to irrigation and malaria in Northern Cote d'Ivoire
de Plaen, Renaud
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Malaria is one of the most serious public health problems in the world. For the last few decades, numerous studies have focused on the potential links between environmental transformations (such as the expansion of irrigation) and malaria occurrence. Most of these studies have been based on relatively simple models outlining the interactions of the host-vector-parasite triad. In this paper, we investigate the links between the intensification of irrigated rice cultivation and malaria. In an attempt to complement biomedical and entomological approaches we propose a model that recognises the influence of human-vector contacts on transmission processes, but stresses the importance of taking into consideration socio-economic and cultural factors in the management of disease episodes, and how these can be affected by transformations of natural resource management strategies. Using a case study in Northern Côte d'Ivoire, we investigated the complex mechanisms by which agriculture-generated changes in ecosystems and socio-economic organisation influence disease risks and produce new scenarios in the management of disease. Our results show that the socio-economic transformation and gender repositioning induced, or facilitated, by the intensification of lowland irrigated rice cultivation influence the health care system for malaria in the study area. They lead to a reduction of the capacity of women to manage malaria episodes among children and influence their vulnerability to the disease. We argue that these elements contribute to higher malaria prevalence in villages involved in double cropping of rice annually.