Deforestation for coffee, tobacco production ups malaria risk: Study

Deforestation and rainforest disturbances can increase the transmission of malaria

malaria-Mosquito-sucking-human-blood-shut Mosquito sucking human blood | Shutterstock

The international trade of exports including coffee, timber, cocoa, palm oil, and tobacco is driving 20 per cent of the malaria risk in deforestation hot spots of the world, according to a study. The research, published in the journal Nature Communications, is the first to link global demand for consumer goods that increase deforestation to a rise in malaria risk in humans.

"We need to be more mindful of our consumption and procurement, and avoid buying from sources implicated with deforestation, and support sustainable land ownership in developing countries," said 

Manfred Lenzen, a professor at University of Sydney in Australia.

Previous studies have shown deforestation and rainforest disturbances can increase the transmission of malaria by creating conditions where mosquitoes thrive: warmer habitats and fewer predators.

"This study is the first to assess the role of global consumption in increasing deforestation and, in turn, malaria risk," said co-author Arunima Malik from the University of Sydney.

"Unsustainable human consumption is clearly driving this trend," said Malik.

The researchers said directing consumption away from deforestation has benefits beyond the malaria link.

It will help reduce biodiversity loss and greenhouse gas emissions as well, they said.

The researchers investigated links between the increasing risk of malaria in developing countries to products demanded by distant consumers.

"We achieved this by quantitatively relating malaria incidence first with deforestation, then to primary commodity production, which we then connected to global supply-chain networks and ultimately to worldwide consumer demand," Malik said.

The final step was accomplished by coupling a highly detailed and large international database with an established and widely used analytical technique -- multi-region input-output (MRIO) analysis.

"This work goes beyond simple incidence mapping and correlations, in that it unveils a global supply-chain network that links malaria occurring in specific locations because of deforestation with globally dispersed consumption," Malik said.

The study can be used for more demand-side approaches to mitigating malaria incidence by focusing on regulating malaria-impacted global supply chains, the researchers said.

Demand-side initiatives such as product labelling and certification, supply-chain dialogue and green procurement standards have been successful in addressing trade-related global problems such as deforestation, threats to species and child labour, they said.

đź“Ł The Week is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@TheWeekmagazine) and stay updated with the latest headlines