Evidence that rodent control strategies ought to be improved to enhance food security and reduce the risk of rodent-borne illnesses within subsistence farming villages in the plague-endemic West Nile region, Uganda

Int J Pest Manag. 2013;59(4):259-270. doi: 10.1080/09670874.2013.845321. Epub 2013 Oct 28.

Abstract

Rodents pose serious threats to human health and economics, particularly in developing countries where the animals play a dual role as pests: they are reservoirs of human pathogens, and they inflict damage levels to stored products sufficient to cause food shortages. To assess the magnitude of the damage caused by rodents to crops, their level of contact with humans, and to better understand current food storage and rodent control practices, we conducted a survey of 37 households from 17 subsistence farming villages within the West Nile region of Uganda. Our survey revealed that rodents cause both pre- and post-harvest damage to crops. Evidence of rodent access to stored foods was reported in conjunction with each of the reported storage practices. Approximately half of the respondents reported that at least one family member had been bitten by a rat within the previous three months. Approximately two-thirds of respondents practiced some form of rodent control in their homes. The abundance of rodents was similar within homes that practiced or did not practice rodent control. Together, our results show that current efforts are inadequate for effectively reducing rodent abundance in homes.

Keywords: food security; food storage; plague; rodent control; rodent damage; rodent-borne diseases; subsistence agriculture.