UNEP and other international health agencies have several projects underway to test non-chemical approaches such as mosquito-repellent trees and larvae-eating fish.
The projects are promising, said Heidelore Fiedler, senior scientific affairs officer with the UNEP Chemicals Branch, “but implementation on the ground moves only slowly… One measure does not fit all.”
Back in Karatu, Artress is trying to put off dragging out the heavy poisons like DDT. A cardiac anesthesiologist who traded his lucrative practice in Modesto, Calif., for bush medicine after a near-death experience climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, Artress is teaching villagers sustainable practices, such as eliminating standing water around their homes.
On a nearby hillside, meanwhile, Karatu naturalist Paskali Gwandu scouts an alternative in the form of a shrubby plant with spires of yellow flowers. Smoke from the bush, cassia (senna) didymobotrya, called qarerei by the local Iraqw tribe, contains a natural repellent, according to Gwandu.
“We put [the leaves] on the fire in our tribe,” he says, describing how the plants are burned in braziers to fumigate homes.
“When you use cassia,” Gwandu says, “you don't need mosquito net.”
This article originally ran at Environmental Health News, a news source published by Environmental Health Sciences, a nonprofit media company.