Community engagement: Why collaborate with an entomological study?
At Target Malaria, the principle of co-development guides our work. Local communities do have a voice. They play a vital role in the development of our processes and research activities. This two-way dialogue helps us build a trustful relationship, ensuring that all residents’ concerns are addressed, and the technology we are developing will meet their expectations.
In Bana, a village in the Western part of of Burkina Faso, engagement activities with residents started in 2012, when the project started. Since then, the community has been supporting us collecting, releasing and recapturing mosquitoes – all part of our entomological studies.
Throughout these years, we developed a meaningful partnership that not only enabled our research to continue, but also enhanced it. We exchanged experiences and knowledge; we integrated their feedbacks. We believe this dialogue and partnership is vital for the success of the project.
But why did the residents decide to help us and continue to do so? There are very few studies explaining the motivating factors for a community to take part in such activities, so we decided to investigate. You can find the results in our new study “Motivations and expectations driving community participation in entomological research projects: Target Malaria as a case study in Bana, Western Burkina Faso”.
We conducted a series of interviews and focus groups with Bana’s residents over three months. Data shows that the reasons behind their participation vary a lot depending on people’s perception of the engagement process, as well as their individual and collective motivations in the short- and long-terms.
The most compelling reason is the desire to protect themselves from malaria. This motivation is all the more interesting because our team explained from the onset that the activities in the first years of the project would not have an epidemiological impact and that the community must continue to use traditional protection measures such as bed nets.
Another motivation was the desire to contribute to a better future, a malaria-free world. The residents also mentioned that, while helping us, they can learn new skills and how to better protect themselves from the disease. Participants also cited the role of prestige as one of the factors that motivated them to host the project. Target Malaria includes a form of financial compensation for those who work with us, and this was another reason mentioned to get involved.
Session of preparation and setting up of mosquito collector
We are aware that the study has its limitations because it was sponsored by the project. Nevertheless, it was rewarding to know that the residents feel they are part of something bigger and that they believe in our research. The challenge for us – and for other projects – is to keep them motivated while ensuring they understand that the potential benefits of gene drive will only be tangible in the long run.
If you are interested to know more about the methodology and results of the study, visit the Malaria Journal.