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Malaria Safe and Agriculture

botchway December 18, 2018


By Alfred Adams                    .

Have you considered the devastating impact the killer disease Malaria could have on agriculture, labour and other businesses? Considering the fact that the mainstay of Ghana’s economy is hinged on agriculture, what do you foresee the sector to be like in the near future, if the malaria disease is prevalent in the chain of production-labour and manpower?

The government flagship programme, Planting for Food and Jobs, for example, is likely to suffer a major blow if those (labour and manpower) involved in the chain of delivery of this programme are down from malaria. In fact, productivity, we needn’t be told, would go down if agricultural workers are constantly hit by malaria.

It is as a result of this that measures would have to be introduced in educating and sensitising the agriculture worker and businesses on the need to fight the deadly malaria disease. In keeping the agricultural worker and businesses safe, Private Sector Malaria Prevention (PSMP) has shown the way with an initiative, not to only sensitise and educate the agricultural worker and businesses, but to battle the deadly disease.

PSMP, for short, has introduced an initiative known as ‘Malaria Safe’, a project by the John Hopkins Center for Communication, designed to help businesses tackle malaria as a health issue in the workplace, as well as surrounding communities.

The ultimate goal is to build a partnership of active companies that are benefiting from protecting employees and communities through Malaria Safe actions. The initiative guides businesses to implement malaria prevention initiatives for employees and their dependents.

In line with that, it has introduced what it calls Malaria Safe actions that agribusinesses could take to reduce the burden of malaria on businesses. It categorised the four actions or pillars as Prevention, Education, Visibility and Championing.

Recent studies report that measures to prevent malaria, do not only save lives, but also have direct effects on agricultural productivity. Considering the fact that the impact of malaria on farm businesses, particularly among agricultural workers, could be devastating, the initiative launched by the PSMP to battle the disease can be a major cure in reducing the menace.

This is because, considering the Western Region as an agricultural area, it is on record that 24% of the population are prone to malaria, a situation that calls for the quick intervention and introduction of PSMP ‘Malaria Safe’ action.

Recent studies reports that measures to prevent malaria, not only save lives, but also a direct effect on agricultural productivity. A clear case study is the Malaria Safe action, as implemented by Volta River Estates, an agricultural company.

In implementing the action, the agribusiness malaria cases dropped from 41% from 321 in 2007, to 187 in 2008 and to 184 in 2010 (increased to 261 in 2011, only to fall to 189 in 2012). Malaria-related absenteeism fell from 410 in 2007, with decreases until 2012, when a total of 176 days, a 53.3% reduction, was recorded.

Speaking at a Malaria Safe and Agriculture workshop, Mr. Richard Kpabitey, Monitoring and Evaluation, PSMP, underscoring the need to fight malaria among agricultural workers, reminded agribusinesses, particularly farmers, of certain activities on their farms that created breeding grounds for the malaria-transmitting mosquito, which he attributed to activities like damming, irrigation and communities living close to reservoirs.

He mentioned that the impact of malaria on a farm could be very devastating. This is, because, malaria could strike farmer-communities at critical planting, weeding and harvesting times.

He added that farmers with malaria tend to harvest only 40% of their crops and lose 22 days of work, an indication that productivity was affected.

He told the workshop that the cost of malaria to agribusinesses in the country in 2016 was GH¢2,757,434 and 80% of the amount was expended on treatment for employees.

The Regional Director of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA), Alhaji Abdel Razak Ziblim, urged civil stakeholders and non-governmental organisations to help in fighting malaria among agricultural businesses.

He said, considering Ghana as an agriculture-based economy, it was likely to suffer if the chain of delivery-labour and manpower was affected by malaria.

Participants at the workshop included officials from the regional and district directorates of the MoFA, Department of Cooperatives, farmer-based organisations, and Ghana Health Service among others.

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