While Zone 3B in the Nata/Gweta constituency has been declared a Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) free area, farmers in the area are yet to benefit from this development. The area has been hit by FMD for a long time and the residents could not sell their cattle to BMC nor move them from the area. However, in May 2017 the Ministry of Agricultural Development and food Security’s tireless efforts of ridding the area of FMD finally paid off as the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) broke good news granting Zone 3B FMD free status without vaccination. The ministry’s spokesperson Geoffrey Pheko confirmed that the area has long been given a free status in May, hence declared a green zone. Pheko confirmed that farmers in the area can now move or sell any of their cattle as they want. The area MP Polson Majaga said this development is supposed to bring hope to the farmers, who for a long time farmers have been affected negatively. Despite these hopes Majaga said farmers are not at ease as they fear reoccurrence of FMD in their area. He said people have been used to their situation and are sceptical of going through the same thing again. Furthermore, this publication has established that farmers in the area have not yet started benefiting from selling to BMC. Contacted for comment one farmer who identified himself as Salane said he could not speak on something that is not practically in effect.
Salane said the announcement that their area has been declared a green zone has been made but practically nothing has changed. “I cannot be able to talk about how our lives have been improved by this declaration because practically we have not seen anything,” he said. He said some farmers in the area had tried to take their cattle to BMC but were blocked. “They were told by the veterinary officials that they have not been given any go ahead yet from the head office,” said Salane. Efforts to get clarity on this were not successful as officials from the head office could not be reached. The Minister Patrick Ralotsia’s phones rang unanswered while Pheko referred all further questions to the Director of Veterinary services Dr Letlhogile Modisa who was said to be out of the office all day.
However, speaking at Nata/Gweta Block Beef Producers Association Framer’s field day recently Ralotsia was quoted saying his Ministry will negotiate with various trading partners to access more lucrative markets that include European Union (EU). Majaga, on the other hand, implored the residents of Zone 3B to work hard to maintain the green zone status so that it can benefit them. He said with the zone declared free there will be no shortage of cattle to the Francistown abattoir. “This should be our responsibility and we should be vigilant at all times as it is us who are living with our cattle. We should not put all the responsibility on government alone. Let us take care of our animals to make sure there is no more Foot and Mouth scare in our area,” cautioned Majaga.