The Intersectoral Fellowships to Build Capacity on Irrigation, Agricultural Production, and Health in Malawi program aims to provide multi-disciplinary research training for twelve post-doctoral fellows (four from the United States and eight from Malawi), emphasizing the strong interaction of agriculture, water resource development and utilization for agriculture (irrigation), and malaria The program will focus on the process of land and water transformation via the Green Belt Initiative (GBI), a massive undertaking involving irrigation and agriculture development in Malawi. The goal is to increase agricultural productivity by reducing dependency on rainfall and bring more hectarage into production, improving the rural economy. Our goal is to mitigate the adverse health impacts of the GBI. We view the GBI as representative of other large-scale programs occurring across Africa. This project utilizes the Malawi setting as a research and training laboratory. Rarely is it the case that large scale, water-based agricultural development includes simultaneous and parallel development of the expertise and infrastructure required to obviate and minimize the concomitant infectious disease risks. Research and training activities will center on empirical and modeling analyses of the ecological and social dimensions of the transformation which will result from the GBI: the disease risks created by expansion of surface water, its effects on mosquito vector populations and subsequent malaria transmission and prevalence, and how these risks can be diminished through interventions that stanch malaria transmission yet maintain the agricultural production goals and desired economic benefits. The long-standing collaborations between Michigan State University (MSU), University of Michigan (U-M), and University of Malawi and between MSU and Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR) will provide the training context. The International Center for Excellence in Malaria Research (ICEMR), a MSU - U-M - University of Malawi consortium funded by NIAID, will serve as a locus for the research, as will ongoing studies of malaria transmission and food security. The collaboration will engage a multi-disciplinary group of faculty with particular expertise in (1) ecology and epidemiology of malaria within the land transformation and land use change process;(2) irrigation systems, land transformation, and agricultural production;(3) governance, policy, and implementation;and (4) ecosystem services and integrity. This collaboration will engage experienced scientists and carefully chosen postdoctoral fellows in coordinated research, implementation, scholarship, and consultation. The end results will be a cadre of trained professionals prepared to support agricultural development while, at the same time, preventing malaria-associated morbidity and mortality.
Water resource development improves the economy of rural Africa but inevitably involves establishes habitats for mosquito vectors of malaria. Our goal is to establish a training program that creates professionals who can address this relationship across its several elements: agronomy, irrigation, the economics of crop production, community participation and decision making, and the ecology and epidemiology of malaria during the transition to irrigated systems at large scales under small landholder conditions.