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Increased income reduced prevalence of malaria through agricultural development programme in Uganda

Thanks to improved economic status, families able to buy bed nets also for children and pregnant women
The icture shows Assistant Professor Yao Pan.
Assistant Professor in Economics Yao Pan. Photo: Aalto University.

Should development organizations provide free health products, such as insecticide-treated bed nets (ITNs) which create a barrier that protects people sleeping under them from insect bites, to reduce the prevalence of malaria? According to new research from Aalto and Lancaster universities, generating more income for families is a better way.

The photo shows a female farmer in Uganda. Photo: Vida Bobić.
Photo: Vida Bobić.

When poor women farmers in Uganda were trained in modern cultivation techniques as part of an agricultural development program, crops increased and their families could afford more bed nets. Consequently, the prevalence of malaria reduced.

‘We have earlier shown that engaging smallholder women in agricultural development programmes results in increased agricultural productivity and improved food security,’ says Yao Pan, Assistant Professor of Economics at the Aalto School of Business.

‘Now, for the first time, we’ve been able to demonstrate that access to an agricultural development programme can reduce malaria cases, and that behind this reduction is an improved economic status of the farmer families and an increase in the number of bed nets owned per capita.’

The photo shows a group of female farmers in Uganda. Photo by Vida Bobić.
Photo: Vida Bobić.

Most vulnerable family members benefitted the most

Three years after the start of the development programme the value of agricultural production was 27.6% higher per capita in villages that had access to the program, compare to similar villages outside the program. Moreover, the prevalence of malaria was 8.9 percentage points lower.  

A key finding was that the most vulnerable family members benefitted most; in fact, the prevalence of malaria was reduced most in pregnant women―by 22.5 percentage points―and in children under five, by 11.2 percentage points.

‘Earlier research has shown that working-age adults are the ones who use the bed nets in poor households, as they are seen to be economically most valuable. Our results indicate that when the income constraint of the households eases, the most vulnerable family members also get access to bed nets,’ Pan explains.   

‘This may have important health effects in the long run as health shocks in early life, such as malaria, may cause considerable economic losses over time.’

The study was funded by the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Assets and Market Access and used data from a large-scale agricultural development programme that was implemented in Uganda by BRAC, a large non-governmental development organisation.

Publication info:

Pan Y., Singhal S. Agricultural extension, intra-household allocation and Malaria. Journal of Development Economics 2019; 139: 157-170.

Link to open access article: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0304387818305029

Link to Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Assets and Market Access policy brief: https://basis.ucdavis.edu/publication/policy-brief-agricultural-extension-program-reduces-malaria-infections-uganda

More information:

Yao Pan
Assistant Professor
Department of Economics
Aalto University, School of Business
[email protected]
 

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