An interesting dilemma has been unfolding quietly here in Apac since the New Year: Organic farmers, eyeing a possibly lucrative organic certification, resisted the plans to spray their houses with DDT. They argued that the DDT would cause traces of DDE (the metabolised form of DDT) in their produce and hence prevent their obtaining the certification. They also said they would not be able to export to Europe. An official from the Uganda Ministry of Health argued that the resistance was nonsense; he had, he said, a list of permitted levels of DDE by potential importers in Europe and North America; the farmers could easily stay below these levels. However, he also claimed that one could even drink a cup of DDT without any effects on health; but as DDT is used to cause suicides in Asia, one should probably disregard his die-hard approach.
The district health department had many meetings with the farmers. They tried to convince them that if a group opted out of the preventive scheme, then the overall effectiveness would be negatively affected: part of the argument for DDT as a vector control hinges upon the fact that as the number of people with malaria decreases, the likelihood of mosquitoes coming by infected blood also decreases. So these insects will still live off human blood, but it is less likely that they transmit malaria in the process of their feeding.
For a long time, the reports were that the farmers did not budge. But recently, I heard that they had changed their mind, seen reason or given up, depending on one’s view point. Although over 90 per cent of people are farmers in this agrarian district, and although agricultural yields leave much to desire, and although the main farming tool is the hand-held hoe, it is probably sad but true to say that the organic farmers of Maruzi county never had received as much attention from the district officials as they did when they openly refused the high-profile spraying of DDT in their area.