Poverty reduction policies guide development strategies. In economies that depend heavily on agriculture, in the face of rapid population growth, innovative approaches are required to satisfy food needs, increase household welfare and alleviate poverty. Irrigated agriculture is an important strategy to enhance crop production, but it must be well tailored to specific socio-ecological settings, as otherwise, it might increase the burden of water-related parasitic diseases and delay economic advance. The purpose of this study is to assess and quantify the effect of ill health, particularly malaria, on the performance of farm activity, with an emphasis on drip-irrigated vegetable farming in rural Côte d'Ivoire. Vegetable yields and revenues were monitored among 12 farmers and linked with longitudinal medical and entomological surveys. Over the course of 10 months, farmers were classified as sick, on average, for 14-15 days, with malaria accounting for 8-9 days (58%), confirming that malaria is the most important disease in this setting. There was a large heterogeneity among farmers, with malaria-related work losses ranging between 0 and 26 days. Work absenteeism correlated with overall yields and revenues. During a single cabbage production cycle, those farmers who were prescribed sick because of malaria for more than 2 days (mean: 4.2 days) had 47% lower yields and 53% lower revenues than farmers who missed a maximum of 2 days (mean: 0.3 days). This is consequential in an intensive cropping system, where substitutes for qualified workers are not readily available. We conclude that mitigating the burden of malaria is an important step towards reducing the vulnerability of people engaged in intensive agricultural production. This calls for targeted interventions to facilitate agriculture-based rural development that might spur social and economic development and reduce inequities in sub-Saharan Africa.