Scaling up Intermittent Rice Irrigation for Malaria Control on the North Coast of Peru
New research aims to help control malaria in one watershed in northern Peru. Malaria is widespread in Peru's arid North Coast because of the extensive irrigation required to support rice paddies. Rice growing in the region accounts for 60% of national production and is growing by more than 5% per year. Rice covers 42% of Peru's arable land. The water used for rice farming is a breeding ground for malarial mosquitoes that have grown resistant to pesticides and that now pose serious public health problems in the region. At the same time, climate variability and change are threatening the sources of irrigation water and forcing farmers to seek alternative farming methods. Previous ecohealth research supported by IDRC in the Lambayeque region confirm that intermittent rice irrigation could reduce the number of mosquitoes and malaria outbreaks, conserve water, and increase rice yields by 25%. However, uptake of this approach has been slow and haphazard. The research aims to foster uptake of intermittent irrigation at the watershed level (Valle de Jequetepeque in La Libertad) by exploring ways to: - disseminate knowledge and skills (farmer-to-farmer agricultural extension); - assess and document social, health, environmental, and economic trade-offs as farmers adopt new practices; and - help establish policies and multi-sectoral support programs to promote and guide this approach. The expected outcome is better health, environment, and quality of life for rice farmers and communities of Peru's North Coast.