Our data shows that the participation of local communities in the implementation of Target Malaria entomological research activities was informed by a wide range of motivations. Five key themes emerged consistently in the interviews and focus group discussions, even if individual actors often expressed them in different semantic registers. Thus, we classified the motivations into five categories: to support field research activities, to contribute to a better future, to acquire knowledge and improve skills, to enjoy financial benefits from participation in the project, and to gain social prestige.
Concern for mosquito and malaria control
The main reason why members of the Bana local community participated in mosquito-collection through Target Malaria was the desire to protect themselves against mosquito bites and malaria. All of the community actors agreed with this reason. A 35-year-old housewife said, “My husband and I have agreed for our home to be sprayed because we want to get rid of the mosquitoes in the house” (35-year-old housewife, Bana). Indoor spraying activities (Figure 2) were aimed at assessing the density of endophilic mosquitoes and their variation over time and space. They allow the determination of the numbers of blood-fed mosquitoes, the origin of the blood meals, and the level of infectivity of malaria vectors. Our data show that fear of mosquitoes and of the harm they can cause is an obvious concern in the area, and that entomological research reduced the number of mosquitoes in the households. As another woman stated: “Whenever they come to spray the house, they drive away a lot of mosquitoes. Again, we know that mosquitoes are not good. This is why I accepted to do the work. Because mosquitoes are not good.” (women’s focus group, Bana). Similar statements were gathered from other participants. Expressions such as “We want to get rid of mosquitoes from our homes”, “We want good health”, “by spraying our homes, they chase out a lot of mosquitoes” and “one day my children will be spared the disease” all highlighted the concerns that the local communities have regarding the harm caused by mosquitoes and the malaria they transmit. Thus, local communities perceived that, through its entomological research activities Target Malaria directly reduced mosquito densities in the village and this motivated residents to actively participate in them. “Mosquitoes are the ones which give us malaria; and to me, combating malaria is a good thing. As for me, I have children and I know that if malaria is controlled, one day my children will be free of this disease and that is good” (women’s focus group, Bana). Despite the project's regularly messages that mosquito collections activities are not intended for vector control (the aim of mosquito collection activities is not to remove mosquitoes from a house, it does not give lasting protection and that, the team always mention the importance for the communities to keep using bednets, etc.), local communities perceive these entomological activities as protecting against mosquitoes and malaria.
‘Contribute to a better future’ and participate in noble research: the meaning of words
A second motivations behind the participation of Bana residents in entomological research activities is the desire to ‘contribute to a better future’. This theme emerged in a variety of interviews and focus group discussions. Several interviewees considered Target Malaria an example of ‘forward-looking research’, in the sense that it could provide in the long term a solution for malaria. This idea is highlighted in the following statements: “As for me, I believe that we are contributing to a better future through our participation in the project. The mosquitoes which I catch myself, it’s as if I was working for myself or for my children. Even if I’m not alive tomorrow, at least I might have done something for tomorrow. For example, for those of us who are farmers, if you buy cattle and tomorrow you’re no more, your children can still work with the cattle. That is how this project is; we are searching for a solution to malaria to save tomorrow’s people” (A 33-year-old mosquito-collecting youth, Bana). Local residents perceived that the various mosquito-collection activities in the village aimed at finding a future solution to their mosquito problem. They believed that this was a noble objective, and that by participating in the project they were doing “good” and contributing to a better future for future generations. One can assume that local residents were conveying messages often put forth by the researchers about the ultimate objective of their activities (“contribute to a better future,” “serve tomorrow,” “noble research,” etc.). Several interviewees reported a sense of pride in being actively involved in this work.
Mosquito collection activities: the stages of learning
Some local residents interviewed also considered their participation in the entomological research activities as an opportunity to improve their knowledge on mosquitoes. The desire to understand mosquitoes and learn more about mosquitoes and mosquito collection techniques were identified as reasons for their participation. This category of motivation was particularly salient among mosquito collectors (Figure 3): “I came to do the work because it is a research which they are conducting. I want to learn this work. Knowing the mosquito, knowing how to catch them in order to combat malaria” (28-year-old mosquito collector for Target Malaria, Bana). Most of the interviewed youths said that their involvement in Target Malaria would allow them to acquire specific knowledge on mosquitoes and mosquito-collection techniques that would enable them to contribute in the fight against malaria. As another participant in the same focus group said, “As for me, I wanted to learn how to capture a mosquito. I know that a mosquito is small. How they are able to catch it. This way, I can also learn how the mosquito transmits the disease” (34-year-old mosquito collector for Target Malaria, Bana). Several statements were collected to identify the type of knowledge acquired by community actors. One of the mosquito collectors said this: “Thank to the project, I learned how to catch mosquitoes. And then now I can differentiate between the kinds of mosquitoes according to whether they are male or female. I know that the male is the one who has a lot of hair on his mouth, he doesn't bite. While the female has a small mouth and a long pointed beak and it is she who bites. In the evening I can identify swarms of mosquitoes, whereas in the past I thought it was dust. Concerning the night, people may wonder how to catch these little bugs, we were shown this. For the third, which is spraying, I learned how to pick them up on the sheet with a pair of pliers and put them in a box. I learned all this in the project.” These comments, which are widely shared by the mosquito collectors, reflect some of the forms of knowledge acquired through participation in the project's entomological activities.
Although the participation of the village youths in the entomological activities may be perceived as a means to learn about mosquitoes and mosquito collection techniques, it sometimes obscured another motivational factor. Indeed, when they said “Do the work,” “to work,” or “how to work,” the mosquito collectors were referring to mosquito-collection techniques (Figure 4) that they perceived as elements of a “trade” they could learn, and that could be useful for future activities in Target Malaria or in similar activities in the future. In fact, although for research purposes, this activity necessitates the availability of mosquitoes: “catch the mosquito” and “capture the mosquito”. Meanwhile, the action words “to catch” or “to capture” come from a knowledge model also directed by research. This new “job” must learned. Capture at night (“Sufè minè” (Sufè = night, minè = catch) and capture during the day (“Téléfè minè” (Téléfè = day, minè = catch) required awareness, learning, and knowledge regarding mosquitoes and their environment.
Desired resources: how local communities perceive their collaboration in the project?
The participation in Target Malaria activities in Bana included a form of financial compensation for the local actors involved. Target Malaria included this in its research protocol submitted to the ethics committee and discussed the issue during information sessions and when seeking volunteers for research activities in the village. In this protocol, Target Malaria insisted that this was not a “remuneration” or “salary”, but rather “compensation” for the time spent by local residents on research activities. Target Malaria understands remuneration as an amount paid directly to employees in exchange for their work, and it requires the establishment of a services contract. This is not the case for the activities studied in this study, which were conducted in the absence of a contractual arrangement – hence the preference for the term compensation, which describes a lump sum granted to volunteers for the loss of income due to the time they invest in the project. Regardless of the terminological nuances, however, this financial compensation was a significant factor for some of the participants, especially the mosquito-collector youths, and attracted significant interest. One of those interviewed provided the following reasons: “Some of us, we are interested in this work because of the monetary reward attached to it. Something which helps us solve our petty financial problems. If someone asks me how is your work, I will tell them the mosquito-catching job is very good and that it is economically good to do this job. It is because of the money given after the work.” (28-year-old mosquito collector for Target Malaria, Bana). In their statements, the local expressions used by the volunteers to qualify the financial compensation were very clear: “Timinandiya” (motivation or encouragement), “Tͻnͻ” (gain, interest, or profit) or “Nusɔndiya” (cheerful or being happy). These expressions, specially “Tͻnͻ”, referred to the financial resources provided by the project. This compensation serves as a direct motivation for those involved in mosquito collection.
In Bana, vegetable growing has a crucial importance as it is one of the only ways to collect revenues during the 5- to 6-month dry season and compensate for potential bad yields. Almost all of the youths do regular gardening as an income-generating activity, yet this activity is insufficient to meet their needs. This partly explains the value the attribute to income opportunities offered by Target Malaria. The observation was confirmed by statements from the other focus groups. As the mother of a mosquito-collector youth said: “The village youths are our children. We know them very well. They offer to catch the mosquitoes because they gain something like financial benefit from it.” (46-year-old housewife, mother of a mosquito-capturing youth, Bana). These financial benefits acquired from their participation in Target Malaria activities have a significant socioeconomic impact on their cultivation or gardening activities. The money received from the project is used by some youth to buy for some equipment (motor pump, petrol, manpower) for their economic activities which could improve their yield.
“Social prestige” and “village reputation”
Some statements from local residents, especially village leaders, highlight the role of prestige as one of the factors motivating them to host the project. “As for me, I really understand the objectives of your project in our village… And I know that, thanks to this project, the name of the village will be projected into the limelight. And people all over the world will wonder where the village of Bana is located. The fact that such research is being conducted in this village is an immense motivation for us, for, in any case, it would bring immense social benefits to the village” (46-year-old village leader, Bana). This statement suggests that, in the perception of some residents, the entomological activities conducted by Target Malaria enhance the village’s image, both at the national and international levels. This was explicitly stated by one of the village residents interviewed: “And, if in the meantime the project achieves the expected results and success in the work, even if we are not alive, people will say that research has been done in Bana. Bana's name will be mentioned everywhere. And as a resident of the village, I will be very proud. That's why I think it's important to get involved” (38-year-old men resident, Bana).