Prodita Sabarini, The Jakarta Post, Denpasar
A village in the Sanur beach area in Bali has succeeded in promoting natural ways to prevent the spread of Dengue fever, through the cultivation of the Liligundi plant.
Liligundi (Vitex Trifolia) is a low creeping plant, less than 5 m in tall, with stems covered in soft hairs. It has small spikes of lavender-colored flowers and gray-green silvery leaves. Its distinct odor which emanates from its branches and leaves can be used to deter mosquitoes -- carriers of the Dengue fever virus.
After three years cultivating the plant in the area, Sanur Kauh village in South Denpasar, has seen positive results with very few reports of the disease recorded since the program started.
Sanur Kauh village leader I Made Dana said he was confident that only a small number of people would contract Dengue fever in his area this year.
"The number of Dengue cases has dropped significantly after we promoted planting Liligundi in our neighborhood," he said.
In 2005 the number of dengue fever cases in Sanur Kauh reached 25 per month, he said.
"Now, the number has dropped to less than five per month," he said.
The village had come a long way in preventing dengue fever in the area, Dana said. During the rainy season in 2005, Sanur Kauh area was classified as in state of extraordinary occurrence (KLB), due to the high number of dengue fever cases reported at that time.
Female mosquitoes lay their eggs in clear water, consequently the rainy season facilitates the spread of the disease due to the increased area of suitable breeding habitat.
"Denpasar Mayor AA Puspayoga at that time called for action to fight dengue fever," Dana said.
"I responded by cultivating Liligundi in my area."
He ordered Liligundi to be planted in unused land and green areas in the village.
Now one can easily spot Liligundi shrubs next to the roadside when passing through Sanur Kauh.
Dana called on all households to plant Liligundi in their gardens and set up the Darma Sedana Group to develop incense from the leaves of the plant to be used as mosquito repellent.
Products from the group have also been sold in Surabaya and Jakarta. The home industry started up with a small investment of Rp 6 million, but has now developed into a prospective business.
He said the local residents had been happy to grow Liligundi in their gardens because it was useful and economical.
"They don't need to buy spray-repellents or lotions," he said.
"You can pick three or four branches from the tree and slap the bed or table to bring out its odor, and mosquitoes will stay away from that area," he said.
"You can also burn incense made of Liligundi branches," he said.
Dana said that the good thing about the plant was that it does not kill mosquitoes but just made them go away.
"So, we're not killing any creatures," he said.