Background: Agricultural practices such as the use of irrigation during rice cultivation, the use of ponds for fish farming and the storage of water in tanks for livestock provide suitable breeding grounds for anthropophylic mosquitoes. The most common anthropophylic mosquito in Nigeria which causes much of the morbidity and mortality associated with malaria is the anopheles mosquito. Farmers are therefore at high risk of malaria - a disease which seriously impacts on agricultural productivity. Unfortunately, information relating to agricultural practices and farmers' behavioural antecedent factors that could assist malaria programmers plan and implement interventions to reduce risk of infections among farmers is scanty. Farmers' knowledge about malaria and agricultural practices which favour the breeding of mosquitoes in Fashola and Soku, two rural farming communities in Oyo State were therefore assessed in two rural farming communities in Oyo State.
Methods: This descriptive cross-sectional study involved the collection of data through the use of eight Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) and the interview of 403 randomly selected farmers using semi-structured questionnaires. These sets of information were supplemented with observations of agricultural practices made in 40 randomly selected farms. The FGD data were recorded on audio-tapes, transcribed and subjected to content analysis while the quantitative data were analyzed using descriptive and inferential statistics.
Results: Most respondents in the two communities had a low level of knowledge of malaria causation, as only 12.4% stated that mosquito bites could transmit the disease. Less than half (46.7%) correctly mentioned the signs and symptoms of malaria as high body temperature, body pains, headache, body weakness and cold/fever. The reported main methods for preventing mosquito bites in the farming communities included removal of heaps of cassava tuber peelings (62.3%), bush burning/clearing (54.6%) and clearing of ditches (33.7%). The dumping of cassava tuber peelings which allows the collection of pools of water in the farms storage of peeled cassava tubers soaked in water in uncovered plastic containers, digging of trenches, irrigation of farms and the presence of fish ponds were the observed major agricultural practices that favoured mosquito breeding on the farms. A significant association was observed between respondents' knowledge about malaria and agricultural practices which promote mosquito breeding. Respondents' wealth quintile level was also seen to be associated with respondents' knowledge about malaria and agricultural practices which promote mosquito breeding.
Conclusion: Farmers' knowledge of malaria causation and signs and symptoms was low, while agricultural practices which favour mosquito breeding in the farming communities were common. There is an urgent need to engage farmers in meaningful dialogue on malaria reduction initiatives including the modification of agricultural practices which favour mosquito breeding. Multiple intervention strategies are needed to tackle the factors related to malaria prevalence and mosquito abundance in the communities.
Malaria Journal (2010) 9: 91 [doi: 10.1186/1475-2875-9-91]