Fish ponds
Accessibility and proximity to Iquitos and Nauta attracted several nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to the peri-urban settlements along the road.
Aiming to reduce poverty and control deforestation and environmental degradation, some of these NGOs, backed by international donors, began promoting fish farming (pirarucu) in ponds beginning in the 1990s. On average, 200 hectares of ponds were built each year from 1992 to 1999, increasing the pond surface along the road almost fivefold.
These development programs coincide with an explosion of malaria: from 1992 to 1997 malaria incidence increased 50-fold in the Iquitos region, in contrast with a national 4-fold increase for Peru.
The severity of the disease also increased during this period: the proportion of malaria cases caused by Plasmodium falciparum rose from 1.6% to 28.3%
A fully functioning Iquitos fish pond
An abandoned pond
The pirarucu, at the center of aquaculture in the Amazon
Drastic changes in the local economy accompanied the pond construction boom. Maintaining a working fish pond costs ~$350/month, and most peri-urban residents could not operate the ponds without NGO subsidies. Many ponds were eventually sold to urban visitors.
These ponds are not productive: they are used as swimming pools and for other weekend recreational activities.
Our preliminary survey indicates that families from Iquitos currently own ca. 90% of NGO-built fish ponds. For peri-urban residents the boom in pond construction produced only one income opportunity: to work as property keepers for the pond owners.
The burden of disease and the labor relationships arising from the NGO-promoted pond construction increased, rather alleviated poverty in the region. Data analysis from our preliminary survey shows a significantly greater risk of malaria infection among households with lower socioeconomic status (p-value<0.01).
Initial survey data from the fish ponds in the peri-urban area
A fish pond turned recreational