Our data shows that the participation of local communities in the implementation of Target Malaria’s entomological research activities was informed by a wide range of motivations. Five key themes, however, emerged consistently in the interviews and focus group discussions, even if individual actors often expressed them through different semantic registers: 1) concern over mosquitoes and malaria and desire for better protection; 2) willingness to contribute to a future world free of malaria; 3) the value of acquiring knowledge and skills; 4) the significance of financial remuneration; 5) the impact of the research on the village’s social prestige.
Concern over mosquitoes and malaria
The main reason why members of the local community in Bana participated in entomological research activities was the desire to protect themselves against mosquito bites and malaria. Fear of mosquitoes and of the diseases they transmit is an obvious concern in the area, and a vast majority of respondents drew a direct link between entomological research and better protection for themselves and their families. This motivation encompassed two overlapping considerations. On the one hand, residents valued the immediate protection provided by some research methods, particularly indoor spraying (Figure 2). Indoor spray catches were used to assess the density of endophilic mosquitoes, as well as the proportion of blood-fed specimens and the degree of infectivity of different anopheline species. Most of the residents who granted access to their compounds for this kind of mosquito sampling valued the immediate protection it offered. “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). “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” express both concern about mosquito-borne diseases and the assumption that some research activities produced a direct health benefit. In this regard, it is important to note that this assumption persisted despite repeated communications from the project team to the effect that entomological research activities, and sampling work in particular, were not intended as mosquito control interventions. In discussions with community members it was often noted that mosquito collection activities had a purely scientific purpose and did not offer lasting protection. It was emphasized that traditional protective measures, bed nets in particular, should be continuously used.
‘Contribute to a better future’ and participate in ‘noble’ research
Another motivation mentioned by Bana residents to explain their participation in entomological research activities was their desire to ‘contribute to a better future,’ and specifically to a world without malaria. This theme emerged in a variety of interviews and focus group discussions, often in close relationship with the expectation of immediate personal or familial benefit. “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” (participant in the women’s focus group, Bana). Several interviewees considered Target Malaria an example of research that could provide a long-term solution for malaria. “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). Residents perceived that the various mosquito-collection activities were aimed at finding a future solution to malaria, and they believed that this was a noble objective and that by participating in the project they were doing “good” and contributing to improving the lives of future generations. The language in which this expectation was expressed often echoed messages put forward by the entomologists regarding the ultimate objective of their work (“contribute to a better future,” “serve tomorrow,” “noble research,” etc.).
Useful knowledge and valuable technical skill
Bana residents reported an appreciation of the opportunity to acquire new knowledge about mosquitoes and malaria transmission through their participation in Target Malaria, and in some cases were able to translate this knowledge into behaviours that might limit their exposure to mosquitoes. Several interviewees, particularly young mosquito collectors, considered their participation in entomological research work as an opportunity to learn practical new skills (Figure 3 & 4). “I came to do the work because it is a research that they are conducting. I want to learn this work. Knowing mosquitoes, knowing how to catch them in order to combat malaria” (28-year-old mosquito collector, Bana). As some participants in the focus group discussion said, “As for me, I wanted to learn how to capture a mosquito. I know that a mosquito is small. How are they able to catch it? This way, I can also learn how the mosquito transmits the disease” (34-year-old mosquito collector, Bana). “Personally, it is an honour to help the project run smoothly. And I must admit that as mosquito collectors, we have learned a lot in this project. I never imagined I would catch mosquitoes one day because in my opinion it was absurd to do so. But with this project, I understood the need to catch mosquitoes and I also know all the techniques to catch them. This project teaches us how to protect ourselves from mosquito bites and the diseases they transmit.” (38-year-old mosquito collector, Bana). When asked what type of expertise they thought they were acquiring through their participation in the project, interviewees referred to a range knowledge and skills. “Thanks 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. As for the night, people may wonder how to catch these little bugs, we were shown this. For the third [activity], 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.” (24-year-old mosquito collector, Bana). Another participant in the focus group with mosquito collectors emphasized “the fact that we always receive training from the project team on mosquito collection techniques before we start to practice it. I really enjoy it. Learning to capture mosquitoes is a good trade” (32-year-old mosquito collector, Bana). These comments show the extent to which some members of the community, particularly those who were recruited to conduct baseline entomological work (spray catches, swarm sampling, Human Landing Catch), perceived their participation as an opportunity to acquire valuable knowledge and skills. Furthermore, references to the importance of “doing the work” or “learning how to work” suggests that those who participated most directly in entomological research activities perceived their involvement as an opportunity to learn a “trade,” a set of skills that could be useful in future entomological research projects.
Target Malaria included a form of financial compensation for those who conducted work on behalf of the project. This included anyone in the village who voluntarily agreed to take part in the project's entomological activities, either by allowing Target Malaria to use their household or by directly collecting mosquitoes on behalf of the project. Target Malaria insisted this was not a “remuneration” or “salary,” but rather a compensation for the time spent by local residents on research activities. Regardless of how this direct transfer was framed, it was often brought up in discussions with mosquito collectors. “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, Bana). The local expressions used by the volunteers to describe 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. The significance of financial compensation was also discussed in the focus groups with older residents. 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).
“Social prestige” and “village reputation”
Several statements from local residents, especially village leaders, highlight the role of prestige as one of the factors that motivated 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). For some residents, particularly those with a representative function, being associated with Target Malaria enhanced the village’s image, both at the national and international levels. This prestige was in some cases projected far into the future: “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).