Several large-scale efforts have been made to combat malaria in the last decade under the Millennium Development Goals, and while these have led to a rapid decline in cases, malaria continues to exact a heavy toll on sub-Saharan Africa, both in terms of human life and economic cost.
Given the relative importance of agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa, several papers have speculated on the possibility that the income-generating capacity of agriculture may help to reduce malaria. However, malaria and income share a complex two-way relationship, and identifying the direction of causality has been a challenge. On the one hand, malaria-related mortality and mobility can reduce income through lost earnings and reduced productivity. On the other hand, low income can increase incidence of malaria by reducing capacity to buy bed nets and other preventive measures. In Pan and Singhal (2015) (https://www.wider.unu.edu/publication/income-and-malaria) we contribute to the literature by examining the effects of a large agricultural income-generating program on malaria in Uganda.
Malaria in Uganda
Malaria spreads through the bites of female mosquitoes that are infected with the malaria parasite. Malaria is endemic in Uganda and it suffers from one of the highest malaria incidence rates in the world (WHO 2015). The economic costs of a malaria episode are high--estimated to be approximately 7.2% of the average annual per capita non-health consumption expenditure of a household (Hoffmann et al. 2009). Sleeping under a bed net is one of the most common ways to prevent mosquito bites. Despite the efforts of the Uganda National Malaria Control Program (UMCP) to provide free or subsidized bed nets, poor households continue to face substantial financial hurdles in obtaining bed nets.
A program to improve agricultural productivity
BRAC Uganda, a large NGO, launched an agricultural extension services program in 2008 with the objective of increasing the productivity of small, low-income female farmers by encouraging them to adopt modern cultivation techniques. This was done by providing agricultural training and increasing access to inputs such as high-yield variety seeds. Within three years (2008-11), it is estimated that the program reached 64,000 farmers across 41 districts in Uganda. The program was found to be effective in increasing the adoption of techniques and inputs that require little upfront monetary investments--intercropping, crop-rotation, use of...