Minister of Agricultural Development and Food Security, Patrick Ralotsia, has had to defend his ministry following accusations by farmers in Ngamiland that the latest outbreak of the foot and mouth disease (FMD) could have been caused by expired vaccines. The chairperson of North West Integrated Famers Association (NWIFA) Mokadi Masedi hailed Ralotsia for improved working relations between Ngamiland farmers and government since he became a minister. Masedi, however, noted that there are still some outstanding issues that government needs to address, one of them being that Ngamiland farmers want representation in the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) board. Masedi also reminded the minister of the farmers’ long standing request for Government to institute an FMD Fund that can be used to address FMD-related issues as opposed to the current situation where they have to rely on usually inadequate annual budget allocation. He also queried the minister on the allegations that the Namanyane FMD outbreak could have been due to the use of expired vaccines by the Department of Veterinary Services (DVS) during the previous campaigns. Ralotsia, however, dismissed the allegations of the use of expired vaccines as untrue, noting that FMD disease has economic implications and as such his ministry takes it seriously. In addition to that, he said, it would be unprofessional and detrimental to the government.
Masedi also requested government to educate farmers on the newly-introduced concept of commodity-based trade (CBT), under which Ngamiland beef could be sold outside the region and worldwide. As CBT relies on the use of quarantines, Masedi requested the minister to resuscitate all the quarantines in Ngamiland that include Kgomokgwana (Nokaneng) and Shorobe. The ministry currently has earmarked only the Makalamabedi quarantine for use. Ralotsia assured farmers that the government will positively consider their requests on the CBT and the resuscitation of other quarantines. Ralotsia applauded Ngamiland farmers for working together in the fight against the spread of FMD. He said farmers have demonstrated their commitment in fighting the FMD in the aftermath of an outbreak at Namanyane cattle post in September 2017. He also noted that that outbreak had followed almost two years of FMD containment. “The outbreak does not mean that you are not fighting this disease. I have seen commitment on your part,” he said. Ralotsia attributed the Namanyane outbreak to some livestock not having been vaccinated during the campaigns. He assured farmers at the Tuesday meeting of his commitment to the fight FMD as shown by his frequent visits to the district.