Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Agricultural livelihood or malaria eradication in Uganda

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African farmers face great hardship as they must choose between protecting their agrarian livelihood or protecting themselves and their children against malaria, according to an article in yesterday's The New York Times.

In an effort to assist the impoverished nation, the U.S. government introduced a variety of farming initiatives in the African country in the early 1990s in order to expand rural community economies. Organic farming was one of the introductions, which was well aligned with the accelerating demand for organic products. One such beneficiary of the program is Mr. Acope, who was able to expand his one-acre lot into a seven-acre farm by incorporating organic farming practices.

The story doesn’t end so happily, though. In 2008, the American government teamed up with Ugandan officials to use DDT, sprayed indoors in tiny amounts, as an effective means of eliminating malaria from the disease-ravaged nation — so far so good. But, for Mr. Acope, and 50,000 other organic certified farmers like him, this meant that he would no longer be able to sell his produce to the organic-farming companies whose antipathy toward DDT — albeit based on no sound science — is no less vitriolic for that.

Now a Ugandan environmental organization is suing their government, claiming that officials failed to meet World Health Organization (WHO) standards for using DDT, even though the WHO strongly endorsed the use of DDT for indoor spraying as a cheap and enduring weapon against malaria in 2006.

Malaria kills 2,000 children each day in Africa, and for these people, the disease is a realistic issue, notes ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross. “From a public health point of view, using DDT to eradicate malaria is a no-brainer since it will save millions of people’s lives. Unfortunately, organic farming communities are refusing to consider crops anywhere near DDT as viable, which is a serious problem entirely caused by organic organizations’ fear of DDT — a position we condemn.”