Partnerships that improve the quality of life

Gepubliceerd op
27 februari 2014

COmON Foundation supports research to fight malaria

“A crucial factor for foundations and charitable trusts investing in research is that the impact of the investment justifies the expenditure,” says Hans van Poelvoorde from the COmON Foundation. The exceptional results being achieved by Prof Willem Takken and his team at the Wageningen University Laboratory of Entomology in a project tackling malaria in Kenya and funded by the COmON Foundation are a good example of how this works in practice.

The Solarmal project in Kenya involves the development of a new toxin-free approach to combatting malaria that (as the name suggests) also provides local people with solar energy. The traps used require electricity and the location where the project is being piloted has no power supply. Each house roof is fitted with a solar panel that runs the traps, provides light and has a telephone charging point. “This has turned out to be a huge success,” says Takken. “People are very motivated to participate as they get a dual bonus of electric power and fewer mosquito bites.” 

How mosquitoes find their victims

Malaria Rusinga trap on house.jpg

Takken has dedicated years to researching how mosquitoes identify their human hosts so accurately via odour profiles. “We have used this principle to identify the chemical cues used by the mosquitoes, narrowing them down from 350 candidate compounds to a group of just six being really of importance. By placing these synthetic lures into a trap we trick the mosquitoes into thinking they are on their way to blood. “ 

The current WHO malaria control methodology using bed nets impregnated with insecticides is in danger due to the rapid development of resistance to the insecticide by the mosquitoes. Takken: “Our pilot project in Lake Victoria is aimed at showing that, by providing every house with a mosquito lure and a trap, we can eliminate mosquitoes from the island and reduce malaria transmission to negligible levels.”

Research for independent growth


This project is supported by the COmON Foundation. “Our work is focused on simple, structural improvements that can establish a basis for economic development and independent growth,” reveals director Hans van Poelvoorde. “The Solarmal project encapsulates this approach by offering various benefits. We were very involved in setting it up, which gave us an excellent insight into how Wageningen University manages its portfolio. We were also part of the project definition workshop in Lake Victoria two years ago and one of our board members is a member of the scientific advisory committee, enabling us to keep a handle on what is happening.”

The research has a positive impact on people’s quality of life, that is at the very essence of what we as a foundation aim to do

Among the key factors that convinced COmON to go ahead with this project is that it is producing measurable results in a vital area and the foundation can see the activities unfold. “One of the things we are sure of already is that the solar panels and associated equipment is having a clear impact on people’s quality of life, something that is at the very essence of what we as a foundation aim to do. And we would certainly recommend other foundations and charitable trusts to partner with Wageningen as they are very professional and well organised people who are committed to their work.”

Less malaria means better food supply

As an organisation dedicated to life sciences and agriculture, a project of this nature is close to the heart of Wageningen UR (University & Research centre). “When people suffer less frequently from malaria, labour output improves and leads to higher crop results,” adds Takken. “This directly links to food production on one hand and health & nutrition on the other. The Solarmal project meets our goal to create a safe environment for people to live in. Ultimately, it all comes down to quality of life.”