Malaria causes serious loss of labour, productivity and eventually incomes in agribusiness, as farmers who suffer the disease during the harvesting period tend to harvest only 40% of crops – with the remaining 60% going waste, a study by the Private Sector Malaria Prevention (PSMP) has shown.
According to PSMP, in 2016 alone, the cost of malaria to agribusinesses in the country (treatment and loss of productivity) was estimated at GH¢2,757,434; indicating that malaria-afflicted farmers also lose up to 22 farming days to illness.
It says irrigated rice farms and water reservoirs are fertile grounds for breeding anopheles mosquitoes, which transmit malaria, thus making farmers and residents of farming communities susceptible to malaria. There is therefore a trend of increasing cases of malaria in the country as government steps up efforts to expand agriculture through large-scale farming practices, such as damming water-bodies and construction of irrigation sites, PSMP has concluded.
It has therefore advocated adding vigorous accompanying malaria-control measures to government’s agricultural drive, saying that measures to prevent malaria not only save lives but also have a direct effect on agricultural productivity. This comes on the backdrop of the ‘Planting for Food and Jobs’ and ‘One Village, One Dam’ initiatives by the current government, aimed at increasing agricultural productivity and profitability.
The Business Technical Advisor-PSMP, Tetteh Ogum, made these remarks during an agricultural stakeholders’ forum held in Sunyani, saying that an unhealthy agricultural workforce will undermine the sector’s potentials. The ‘Malaria Safe and Agriculture’ initiative sought to among others sensitise players in agribusinesses on how to protect themselves from the deadly disease.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated that in 2015 malaria affected over 212 million people around the world, with an annual estimated global malaria-related death toll of 429,000. In Ghana, malaria accounted for about 38% of all outpatient visits to health facilities and 48.5% of deaths among children under five – thus making it one of the country’s leading causes of illness and death.
Mr. Ogum underscored the need for the private sector, particularly agribusiness, to show utmost concern for malaria prevention to safeguard its workforce and families. This, he emphasised, can be achieved through the distribution of long-lasting insecticide-treated nets (LLINs), educating employees about malaria, and encouraging regular use of LLINs.
According to the WHO’s World Malaria Report 2016, one of the most common and cost-effective ways of preventing mosquito bites is sleeping under a LLIN. The use of LLIN, it (WHO) explained, reduces the rates of malaria by 50% – and also reduces the rate of death by 55% for children under five years in sub-Saharan Africa.
The Brong Ahafo Regional Veterinary Officer, Dr. Saviour Denueme who deputised for the Regional MoFA Director, stressed the need for farmers and other agricultural workers to prioritise their health as well as families – especially against malaria – to guarantee the country a healthy human resource base to expand agricultural growth.
“Malaria can strike farmer communities at critical planting, weeding and harvesting times, leading to low productivity. Productivity is reduced due to sick workers, and workers who care for sick family members to the neglect of their farms. With reduced labour productivity, demand for agricultural inputs and goods as well as services can be reduced,” he said.
The Private Sector Malaria Prevention initiative (PSMP) is a three-year project funded by the UK Department for International Development and implemented by the Johns Hopkins Centre for Communication Programmes. PSMP’s Malaria Safe initiative is designed to help businesses tackle malaria as a health issue in the workplace, as well as in surrounding communities.