Health issues are increasingly affecting household decisionmaking, farm labor, and agricultural productivity in developing countries. Similarly, certain agricultural development projects and practices that aid productivity (for example, the use of pesticides and the water harvesting techniques, storage structures, and dams involved with irrigation) can actually exacerbate the incidence of diseases in workers by increasing interactions with disease vectors and parasites. Failure to consider either the negative or positive health effects of certain farm practices or interventions can distort their impact; for example, an estimate of the real economic benefits of adopting pest-resistant crops or organic farming must take into account the positive health impacts accruing from decreased pesticide use.
Development practitioners must understand the relationship between health, farm labor, and agricultural productivity in order to design effective policies to maximize both farmers’ well-being and agricultural production while minimizing any harmful interactions between them. To achieve this, the two-way linkages need to be assessed, and the specific impact pathways of a disease—including its effects on household decisionmaking, labor, and livelihoods—should be monitored.