Anti-mosquito plants as an alternative or incremental method for malaria vector control among rural communities of Bagamoyo District, Tanzania
© Innocent et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2014
Received: 31 October 2013
Accepted: 1 July 2014
Published: 11 July 2014
Plants represent one of the most accessible resources available for mosquito control by communities in Tanzania. However, no documented statistics exist for their contribution in the management of mosquitoes and other insects except through verbal and some publications. This study aimed at assessing communities’ knowledge, attitudes and practices of using plants as an alternative method for mosquito control among selected communities in a malaria-prone area in Tanzania.
Questionnaires were administered to 202 respondents from four villages of Bagamoyo District, Pwani Region, in Tanzania followed by participatory rural appraisal with village health workers. Secondary data collection for plants mentioned by the communities was undertaken using different search engines such as googlescholar, PubMED and NAPRALERT.
Results showed about 40.3% of respondents used plants to manage insects, including mosquitoes. A broad profile of plants are used, including “mwarobaini” (Azadirachta indica) (22.5%), “mtopetope” (Annona spp) (20.8%), “mchungwa/mlimau” (Citrus spp) (8.3%), “mvumbashi/uvumbati” (Ocimum spp) (7.4%), “mkorosho” (Anacadium occidentale) (7.1%), “mwembe” (5.4%) (Mangifera indica), “mpera” (4.1%) (Psidium spp) and “maganda ya nazi” (4.1%) (Cocos nucifera). Majority of respondents collected these plants from the wild (54.2%), farms (28.9%) and/or home gardens (6%). The roles played by these plants in fighting mosquitoes is reflected by the majority that deploy them with or without bed-nets (p > 0.55) or insecticidal sprays (p >0.22). Most respondents were aware that mosquitoes transmit malaria (90.6%) while few respondents associated elephantiasis/hydrocele (46.5%) and yellow fever (24.3%) with mosquitoes. Most of the ethnobotanical uses mentioned by the communities were consistent with scientific information gathered from the literature, except for Psidium guajava, which is reported for the first time in insect control.
This survey has indicated some knowledge gap among community members in managing mosquito vectors using plant. The communities need a basic health education and sensitization for effective exploitation of this valuable tool for reducing mosquitoes and associated disease burdens. On the other hand, the government of Tanzania should strengthen advocacy of botanical pesticides development, registration and regulation for public health benefits because they are source of pest control tools people rely on them.
Availability of healthcare services for improved diagnosis and treatment of mosquito-borne diseases have been considered as two crucial interventions in minimizing mortality and morbidity risk due to exposure to infected mosquitoes . However, these alone cannot eliminate the high mosquito borne disease incidences in sub-Saharan Africa unless levels of infections and re-infections are substantially reduced through effective vector control mechanisms. Thus, a new strategy for control and prevention of mosquito-borne diseases, reinforcing linkages between health and environment and emphasizing Integrated Vector Management (IVM), has been advocated by WHO . The strategy also stresses the importance of understanding the local vector ecology and local patterns of disease transmission. This is considered important in choosing the appropriate vector control tool from a range of the available options. IVM needs to be locally managed and flexible, with emphasis on decentralization, active community participation and harnessing of local knowledge . In line with this understanding, Tanzania has since 2005 made a number of reforms in the health sector with most of the disease prevention and control program activities being planned and implemented at district level . However, the current mosquito vector management efforts are focused on the use of Insecticide Treated Nets (ITN) and Indoor Residual Sprays (IRS). Very little effort has been directed towards the use of pesticidal plants that have been deployed by rural communities since time immemorial as a first line intervention in primary health care.
Furthermore, many of the synthetic insecticides available to-date faces challenges due to environmental contamination, resistance development by target insects and high deployment costs. This calls for the use of ecologically friendly and effective botanical insecticides as an alternative measure. The aim of present study, therefore, was to assess communities’ knowledge, attitudes and practices of using plants as an alternative or incremental method for mosquito vector control among selected communities in a malaria-prone area of Bagamoyo district, Tanzania so as to know the existing and potential contribution of anti-insect plants in this endeavor. Specifically, insights generated from this study, are expected to add value to the current IVM strategies in rural communities where plants continue to be deployed in mosquito control.
Study area and design
Before commencement of the study, reconnaissance surveys were conducted in the study area. The purpose of the visits was to get acquainted with the study areas and discuss the project with district and village leaders. Leaders in all the four villages agreed to convene a meeting of the adult residents with the help of Village Health Workers (VHWs) who identified the participants based on our criteria. Informed collective agreement was made and other useful information was sought. Those who consented proceeded to filling in the self-administered questionnaires and then followed by in-depth interview in a focus group discussion. During filling of questionnaires those who did not know how to read and write were assisted to fill the questionnaires by the research team who asked them to respond to questions. Focus group discussion consisted of leaders of the village and village health workers whom together checked and confirm identity of the meaning and of any ambiguities. However, FGD did not affect the priority of list which was given by individuals when filling the questions. Semi-structured questionnaire and focus group discussions were translated in Swahili language (after being translated from the Standard English version). Published information on the plant species mentioned was gathered through literature search using google scholar, PubMED and NAPRALERT. The final results of the study were shared with all study participants during community feedback meetings at each of the study sites.
Scientific and ethical approval for the study (NIMR/HQ/R.8a/Vol. IX/1093) was granted by the Medical Research Coordinating Committee (MRCC) of the National Institute for Medical Research and the institutional clearance was granted by the Senate, Research and Publication of the Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences (MUHAS/RP/AEC/VOL.XIII/), Tanzania.
Quantitative data were double entered into a computer database using EpiData® software. Responses from closed- ended questions in questionnaires were coded before being entered into the computer. Data quality checking process was done and thereafter the database was exported to STATA 10 software for statistical analysis.
Socio-economic and demographic profile
Respondents’ socio-economic and demographic profile (N = 202)
Total (N = 202)
Number/proportion (%) of respondents
χ 2 (p-value)
No formal education
Time of residential stay
<= 1 year
2 - 5 yrs
6 - 10 yrs
11 - 15 years
> 15 yrs
Types of homesteads
Mud and grass
Mud wall and metal roof
Block wall and grass roof
Block wall and metal roof
Block wall and tiles
People’s knowledge and practice on use of plants for controlling mosquitoes
List of the most invasive insects/organisms controlled by plants
Common english name
No. of responses (%)
Plants used for insect control in Bagamoyo District
Species/Genus name (Voucher specimen number)
No. of responses (%)*
Mwarobaini, mwarobaini kamili
Azadirachta indica (ITM 3080)
Mtopetope, mtopetope mwitu, mtomoko, mtomoko mwitu, mchekwa, mtopetope pori
Annona squamosa (ASS-T-II), An. senegalesis (OT 00353)
Citrus limonium (ITM 433)
Ocimum suave (ITM 445.0303)
Anacardium occidentale (TMRU 2876)
Mangifera indica (TMRU 963)
Psidium guajava (TMRU 2880)
Maganda ya nazi
Cocos nucifera (TMRU 1510)
An. muricata (OT 00351)
Knowledge and practice of using plants in mosquito controls among Bagamoyo communities
No. of respondents
How long does it take for the insect to die?
less than 1 hour
How frequent do you apply
once a day
once a week
once a month
once a year
Modality of using/applying the plant
Cut to pieces and distribution
Ground fresh materials distribution
Soaking and spraying
Placed in a ceiling
Distances traveled to harvest the plant
< 1 km
Where do you apply it
Inside the house
in dumping areas
Around the house premise
In water tanks
In sewage systems
Part of the plant used
Place of harvesting the plant
Knowledge about mosquito transmitted diseases, multiplication and control
Knowledge of mosquito transmitted diseases, multiplication and control (N = 202)
Knowledge of diseases caused by mosquitoes
All of the above
Knowledge of places of mosquito breeding
Water and air
Water and bush
Stagnant water alone
Using treated bednet
Filling stagnant water bodies
Using insecticides residual sprays
Keeping home premises clean
Inspecting water bodies around the house premises
Wearing long sleeves
All of the above
None of the above
Respondents’ reliance on various mosquito preventive measures
χ 2 (p-value)
Use of ITN
Use of plants/herbs
Insecticide residual spray
Perceptions on the use of plants in mosquito control
Attitude about elimination of mosquitoes (N = 202)
# No of response
Attitude towards eliminating mosquitoes from our homestead
No, because mosquitoes are created by God
Mosquitoes come with rain no one can control them
No, mosquitoes are only seen after sun set
Yes, by eliminating stagnant water
Yes, by closing widows and doors
Yes, by using indoor insecticide residual spray
Yes, by spraying insecticide in stagnant water
Yes, by using ITN
Participation in mosquito control
Destroying or avoid creating stagnant water bodies
It is the responsibility of the government
Wait for the directives from the district malaria control focal person
Community based programs of cleaning bushes
Community based programs of applying safe insecticides in stagnant waters
Reliance of plants as source of insecticides
We use them often
It is an old practice
We have many plants around us
Not harmful like insecticides bought in the shop
Plants are affordable, unlike insecticides
Secondary data generated on ethnobotanical status and scientific investigations on the plants mentioned
An overview of Insecticidal plant efficacy from literature review of selected species mentioned in the Bagamoyo survey
Name of other related species growing in Tanzania
Related Ethno botanical uses in insect management
Azadirachta indica (Maliaceae)
In Tanzania, leaves mixture with cow urine controls maize pests in the field; Also, infusion of leaves and tobacco powder are sprayed to control crop pests in the field 
Dried leaf powder is used to repel Culex quinquefasciatus.
Larvicidal activity against Aedes aegyptis.
Leaf, seed, seed oil, flower and fruit are used by Indians for control of Rice weevil .
Indians use leaf, bark, root, stem and fruits for control of head lice and insects .
Annona reticulata L.
Annona senegalesis (Annonaceae)
Annona senegalensis Pers is used traditionally in Nigeria to treat victims of snakebite .
Also leaf extract is used against Aedes adopticus.
leaves was effective against different stages of Caryedon serratus
Citrus spp (Rutaceae)
Essential oils of C. aurantifolia, C. paradis, C. sinensis and C. limonium is used for control of Cowpea weevils (Callosobruchus maculatus) .
C. aurantium. Essential oils are used to control tomato moth (Tuta absoluta) and Africa cotton leaf worm. (Spodoptera littoralis) .
Show bioefficacy against Ae. albopictus of three Citrus essential oils, derived from peels of Citrus sinensis, Citrus limon, and Citrus paradise and of their component ; Also against An. gambiae.
Ocimum Spp (Laminaceae)
Leaves of O. suave are arranged in a bag of millet or maize to control pests .
Essential oils of O. suave and O. kilimandscharium are Cx. Quinquefasciatus and Anopheles arabiensis repellant .
Leaves of O. gratissimum are used in Nigeria in post harvest protection of maize .
Essential oils of O. canum and O. basilicum are used for control of Cowpea weevils (Callosobruchus maculatus) .
Hyptis suaveolens (Formally, O. basilicanum)
High protection time of essential oil of O. basilicum with ethyl alcohol, tested against three mosquito species, Aedes aegypti, Anopheles minimus and Culex quinquefasciatus.
O. gratissimum essential oil formulation repelled anopheline and culicine mosquitoes .
O. basilicum essential oil showed the strongest larvicidal activity while O. gratissimum exhibited the longest duration of action for mosquito repellent activity .
Anacardium occidentale (Anacardiaceae)
The gum from stem of A. occidentale is used as an adhesive (for woodwork panels, plywood, bookbinding), partly because it has insecticidal properties .
Powders and extracts of A. occidentale seeds were effective in controlling cowpea bruchid, C. maculatus in stored cowpea seeds .
Larvicidal activities of aqueous extracts of Leaf, Bark and Nutshell of A. occidentale showed insecticidal properties on the An. gambiae.
Leaves of An. muricata are used by phu thai tribe in Lao People’s Democratic Republic to repel bedbugs and lice .
Leaves of M. indica is used in uMkhanyakude district, KwaZulu-Natal province, South Africa as mosquito insect repellent .
Maganda ya nazi
The Government of Tanzania has invested in a number of interventions aimed at alleviating mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria and lymphatic filariasis. These include improving diagnosis and treatment of the diseases, provision of subsidized anti-malarial (ALU) drugs, and use of insecticide-treated nets (ITN). Elsewhere, history and scientific evidence show that the battle against mosquito-borne diseases has succeeded significantly through massive spraying with DDT [38, 39], although ecological unfriendliness of the insecticide has made its continued use very controversial. However, this may have opened up the use of plant natural products with subtle anti-insect effects as a better alternative in reducing the burden of mosquito-borne diseases. Specific tropical plants are readily accessible by rural communities, and are eco-friendly and cost- effective.
Although only 40.3% of the respondents in the Bagamoyo District reported using plants in the control of insects and especially mosquitoes. Many of the mentioned plants are exotic, although they were introduced on the African coastal area long time ago, and are from plant families with anti-insect activities [40–42]. Of special significance is that the majority of respondents were open to the possibility of using a combination of different methods in an integrated vector management and were aware of different diseases caused by mosquito species such as malaria, elephantiasis/hydrocele and yellow fever. This could be attributed to regular community-based sensitizations from other malaria interventions such as the Bagamoyo Bednet [3, 43, 44] and on-going Malaria Vaccine Trial . The present study identified the need for regular outreach education on proper deployment of anti-insect plants within rural communities where there is continued use of this natural resource to add value to the current mosquito and malaria control strategies. Further R&D on the plant products deployed, their efficacy and modes of action would lay down the groundwork for selecting those that are particularly effective in different uses and in optimizing their deployment.
The present survey indicates that a good proportion of members of different communities in Bagamoyo District continue to use plants to control different disease vectors and other pests and that the majority are open to the possibility of integrating them with other interventions. Continued use of these medicinal plants needs to be encouraged and promoted as they have potential for complementing other interventions in vector and disease control. Tanzania has no clear policy or guidelines on development, registration and use of botanical insecticides. Elsewhere, some botanical insecticides have been developed for multipurpose uses in pest control, including mosquito control. This calls for the government to strengthen advocacy of botanical pesticides development, registration and regulation for public health benefits.
We are thankful to the Office of the District Medical Officer and District Community Development Officer, village leaders and study participants for their willingness to collaborate with researchers. We are thankful to DelPHE-British Council for the funds to carry out this study.
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