A Project that Fights Disease and Improves Livelihoods

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crevetteProject Crevette is taking a unique approach to combat the high prevalence of schistosomiasis along the Senegal River. Schistosomiasis is a water parasite that burrows into human skin and causes infections in several organs and eventual organ failure. The parasites require snails to serve as intermediary hosts as they mature. This is where Project Crevette is directing their intervention. They are creating prawn hatcheries in select communities to reintroduce millions of native prawns, whose populations were decimated by the Diam Dam in the 1980s. Prawns are the snail’s natural predators and helped maintain the health of the river. To do this they are creating water ladders to assist the prawns in their migrations up river. The project has the effect of re-introducing prawn harvesting as an economic activity to rural communities. Project Crevette have reported a 10-fold decrease in parasites in one community and halving in the rates of schistosomiasis contraction.

Instead of treating the disease in humans, they are taking preventative measures by going to the source. By re-introducing the snail eating prawns, Project Crevette is restoring the natural equilibrium of the river. In the long run this project redirects money that would have gone to costly treatments and medicine to an economic investment. Prawn fishing is a lucrative global industry and could help raise incomes of communities along the river. Project Crevette is focusing on this aspect of the project in order to maintain its sustainability. Another effect of the project is that people are no longer pouring sewage into the rivers for fear it will harm their prawns.

The practice of introducing a species into an environment is a matter that should be taken seriously. Luckily, the species of prawn they are breeding are native to the region, but that does limit the emulation of this project elsewhere. That being said, with enough research into local environments, other species may present themselves as natural disease fighters and ecosystem protectors.

Project Crevette was awarded a $200,000 grant from Grand Challenges Canada. Grand Challenges Canada is funded by the Canadian Government.

Developed by: Project Crevette

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Eric Pires

Eric Pires

Eric Pires is a writer and co-founder of Innovate Development. He has worked in various sectors in Latin America and is currently working in Antigua, Guatemala.

3 Comments:

  1. What a creative way to tackle so many problems at once!

  2. Very interesting approach though I wonder whether there are any unintended ecological effects with the reintroduction of so many. Also, great website!

  3. They didn’t address unintended ecological effects of reintroduction, but I would assume that if the species thrived in the river beforehand it wouldn’t be detrimental to other life. That being said, another species may have replaced the prawns and is now under threat.

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