Former Inverness resident raises funds for mosquito repellent efforts in Africa
Of the estimated 429,000 deaths from malaria in 2015, nearly all occurred in Africa, and a startling majority were of children under the age of 5, according to the World Health Organization. “It has become an epidemic because people have no defense against it,” said Sam Darling, an organic grower whose company produces lemongrass for tea. Over a decade ago, Mr. Darling, who has lived in Inverness in the past, invented a low-cost mosquito repellent lotion whose active ingredient is lemongrass. Through a foundation called No Mo, he’s has been producing and distributing it to underdeveloped communities in Peru and Ghana. He is now ready to step it up. The foundation hopes to raise $60,000 in 30 days to train social marketers and expand into Tanzania and Uganda. A launch party will be held in Inverness Park next week. Working to contain the ravages of malaria is in Mr. Darling’s blood. His grandfather, Samuel Taylor Darling, was a renowned malariologist credited with controlling and preventing malaria during the construction of the Panama Canal. “It’s an ironic fact that the mosquito that causes 85 percent of malaria in the Americas, Anopheles darlingi, is named after my grandfather,” Mr. Darling said. The No Mo repellent uses a pair of crucial ingredients to deflect diseased vectors: p-Menthane-3,8-diol, a plant-derived molecule that produces a cooling sensation on the skin, and lemongrass oil. Mr. Darling produces lemongrass in Guatemala for use in herbal tea through his company Del Cielo; after decades of working with the tropical grass, he “stumbled” onto its amazing power to repel insects. The molecule extends the life of the oil—which alone can repel insects for less than an hour—to 10 hours. The repellent is also inexpensive to produce, and is sold at a low cost. (It costs $6.50 for a family of four in Ghana to use it daily for a month.) “I developed this for poor communities,” said Mr. Darling, who now resides on Salt Spring Island off the coast of British Columbia. “It wasn’t developed for wealthy gringos living in Ross who are afraid of Zika out on a barbeque—these are not the people who are threatened. This is for people living in huts in dirt floors who don’t have doors and screens.” Carlos Porrata, an Inverness resident who sits on No Mo’s board of directors, has known Mr. Darling for years and said it was a “no brainer” to join the nonprofit. “He’s starting to produce it big time, spreading it throughout Africa and nations that can’t afford insect repellent,” he said.