Climate change maladaptation for health: Agricultural practice against shifting seasonal rainfall affects snakebite risk for farmers in the tropics

iScience. 2023 Jan 7;26(2):105946. doi: 10.1016/j.isci.2023.105946. eCollection 2023 Feb 17.


Snakebite affects more than 1.8 million people annually. Factors explaining snakebite variability include farmers' behaviors, snake ecology and climate. One unstudied issue is how farmers' adaptation to novel climates affect their health. Here we examined potential impacts of adaptation on snakebite using individual-based simulations, focusing on strategies meant to counteract major crop yield decline because of changing rainfall in Sri Lanka. For rubber cropping, adaptation led to a 33% increase in snakebite incidence per farmer work hour because of work during risky months, but a 17% decrease in total annual snakebites because of decreased labor in plantations overall. Rice farming adaptation decreased snakebites by 16%, because of shifting labor towards safer months, whereas tea adaptation led to a general increase. These results indicate that adaptation could have both a positive and negative effect, potentially intensified by ENSO. Our research highlights the need for assessing adaptation strategies for potential health maladaptations.

Keywords: Agricultural science; Applied sciences; Food science; Sustainability aspects of food production.