The hidden dangers of irrigation
By Imogen Mathers
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For farmers in Kenya, creative ways to irrigate crops can be the difference between a harvest failing or thriving. In this drought-prone country, access to reliable water sources is a daily challenge.
Few would argue with the need for better irrigation. Yet certain techniques introduced by the government to spur food production have dangerous side effects, warns Bernard Bett, a veterinary epidemiologist at the International Livestock Research Institute in Kenya. The pools and canals that underpin flood irrigation create ideal conditions for mosquitoes to thrive, and are a draw for wildlife to gather and drink. This confluence of elements forms a perfect petri dish for zoonotic diseases such as malaria and dengue to circulate between wildlife, livestock, humans and insects.
Instead, Bett suggests exploring alternative techniques such as drip irrigation, a small change that can play a big part in keeping people safe from vector-borne diseases.
The interview was recorded on 18 March at One Health for the Real World, a symposium in the United Kingdom organised by the Dynamic Drivers of Disease in Africa consortium and the Zoological Society of London.
Photo: Nana Kofi Acquah/IWMI