Abstract Malaria vector Anopheles and other mosquitoes (Diptera: Culicidae) were monitored for 12 months during 1994–95 in villages of Lower Moshi irrigation area (37°20′ E, 3°21′ S; ∼700 m a.s.l.) south of Mount Kilimanjaro in northern Tanzania. Adult mosquito populations were sampled fortnightly by five methods: human bait collection indoors (18.00–06.00 hours) and outdoors (18.00–24.00 hours); from daytime resting-sites indoors and outdoors; by CDC light-traps over sleepers. Anopheles densities and rates of survival, anthropophily and malaria infection were compared between three villages representing different agro-ecosystems: irrigated sugarcane plantation; smallholder rice irrigation scheme, and savannah with subsistence crops. Respective study villages were Mvuleni (population 2200), Chekereni (population 3200) and Kisangasangeni (population ?1000), at least 7 km apart.
Anopheles arabiensis Patton was found to be the principal malaria vector throughout the study area, with An. funestus Giles sensu lato of secondary importance in the sugarcane and savannah villages. Irrigated sugarcane cultivation resulted in water pooling, but this did not produce more vectors. Anopheles arabiensis densities averaged four-fold higher in the ricefield village, although their human blood-index was significantly less (48%) than in the sugarcane (68%) or savannah (66%) villages, despite similar proportions of humans and cows (ratio 1 : 1.1–1.4) as the main hosts at all sites. Parous rates, duration of the gonotrophic cycle and survival rates of An. arabiensis were similar in villages of all three agro-ecosystems.
The potential risk of malaria, based on measurements of vectorial capacity of An. arabiensis and An. funestus combined, was four-fold higher in the ricefield village than in the sugarcane or savannah villages nearby. However, the more realistic estimate of malaria risk, based on entomological inoculation rates, indicated that exposure to infective vectors was 61–68% less for people in the ricefield village, due to the much lower sporozoite rate in An. arabiensis (ricefield 0.01%, sugarcane 0.1%, savannah 0.12%). This contrast was attributed to better socio-economic conditions of rice farmers, facilitating relatively more use of antimalarials and bednets for their families. Our findings show that, for a combination of reasons, the malaria challenge is lower for villagers associated with an irrigated rice-growing scheme (despite greater malaria vector potential), than for adjacent communities with other agro-ecosystems bringing less socio-economic benefits to health. This encourages the development of agro-irrigation schemes in African savannahs, provided that residents have ready access to antimalaria materials (i.e. effective antimalaria drugs and insecticidal bednets) that they may better afford for protection against the greater vectorial capacity of An. arabiensis from the ricefield agro-ecosystem.