The recent discovery and ultimate killing of a buffalo in Zone 11 – a previously free-Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) zone – is a shocking reminder of the fragility of the country’s economy. From this grave shock and anxiety should be the ultimate response. The country is called to arms to defend its economic sustenance; it should lay out a war plan of defeating all prospects of future exposure to FMD in areas it never existed. How, the question begs, did this happen? How come a buffalo landed in the middle of Zone 11, something that none expected? As we grapple with possible answers to these we ought to accept that going forward we should always brace ourselves for the worst case scenarios and prepare as hard as possible for them. This is why people always take life insurance and subscribe for medical aid cover even when they are not sick. We should put up the buffalo fence all around the country. We should divide the zones with strong buffalo fences to ensure that movement of animals – domestic and wildlife – is well regulated.
We cannot continue as we have been. Zone 11, as it is, is exposed. Game ranches in the neighbouring South Africa and Namibia are along the border. The border fences are not strong enough and are not constantly policed to ensure that any game that could mistakenly escape from these farms would not cross into the country. We need to scale up all forms of defence and fences to ensure that we do not get caught up in a similar mess in the future. Perhaps it is time also to agitate for a stronger intelligence unit in the Ministry of Agriculture to oversee issues of stock theft and any dangers that this sector faces, including possible saboteur acts of deliberate spreading of diseases. If the livestock sector matters just as wildlife sector does – where anti-poaching activities are monitored and dealt with by a decisive force that includes commandos – it is time that the livestock sector gets the same attention. As things stand the police are too involved with various crimes from house-breaking, petty theft to hijacking and robberies to be expected to give this sector the serious attention it deserves.
A livestock intelligence unit therefore has to be launched. Because criminals in this area are getting complicated by the day, they equally require a robust force and intelligence system to deal with them effectively. But even more, the interaction of wildlife and livestock is becoming a risk that requires proactive management to avoid disastrous pitfalls that we see with this sudden discovery of a buffalo in an area it is least expected! Proactively gathering and constantly screening intelligence information will go a long way in averting disasters like these. The Ministry of Agriculture is as such challenged to be bold and deliberate in taking steps that will ensure that there will be no repeat of the current developments. We wish under the circumstances to urge our countrymen and women in the affected area to take steps that are necessary to ensure that the situation does not worsen. Even as it is the first time that people in this area to grapple with the effects of lack of meat and related products they should not despair to the levels of breaking the law. It is a phase that we should all endure, cope with and survive to ensure that all ultimately goes well. In the meantime, we will have to forgo meat at funerals, weddings and all related festivities until the Ministry clears all suspicions they have. And if the FMD is discovered in this area, we need to brace for even more serious consequences which will mean long suffering. At worst it will lead to the forgoing of the lucrative European Union (EU) market and the collapse of the beef sector, which has struggled for years now.