Kgalagadi North farmers have clashed with the Department of Veterinary Services(DVS) because of the incompatibility of Botswana Animal Information Traceability System(BAITS) in their region.
The dispute erupted in Hukuntsi on Tuesday during a BAITS workshop organised by DVS to sensitize farmers about its operation. The majority farmers who commented were unanimous that BAITS was ineffective in their region due to persistent problem of network connectivity. They said it is a common knowledge that their region is always affected by absence of network connectivity and their predicament is known by network providers.
They further lambasted DVS for not having any alternative form of help in case of absence of network connectivity. They suggested that BAITS should be modify like the Livestock Identification and Traceability System(LITS) which was manual on the side of farmer. LITS was a government traceability system which used inside bolus for animal identification. However, the system was aborted in 2013 and BAITS replaced it.
They said though the system ineffective, DVS demanded answers from them for lack of compliance. They said the department should address the loopholes in BAITS before they can enforce penalties on farmers who failed to comply.
Farmers were of the view that BAITS which used ear tags has increase livestock theft as compared to LITS. They said thieves easily remove ear tags on their livestock and insert the new ones and proceed with computerisation of ownership in BAITS system.
Moreover, farmers decried that BAITS need people who are technological savvy and most farmers in are illiterate. The decision by DVS to relieve themselves of BAITS services to BAITS agents seems to have added more salt to an injury. They said BAITS agents who are mostly youth never help them effectively as they are always absent from their service stations.
Answering the comments from raging farmers, Scientific Officer at the DVS, Mbaakanyi Gubungalo said BAITS was introduced to improve the identification of cattle and to capture all vaccinated cattle and also for easy traceability of cattle owners. He explained that the system ensures that no animal remains anonymous, health condition and performances of each individual animal can be immediately traced and managed.
Gubungalo said BAITS is a technological based system and therefore it cannot be transform it to alternative manual system. He explained that farmers who are illiterate can always seek help from BAITS agents.
He said the department have discovered that some farmers purchased more ear tags than needed and still failed to ear tag their animals. He said they are join hands with legal wing to conduct animal inspection to ensure compliance.
He further explained that the Police through their Stock Theft Unit are busy combating stock theft therefore farmers should be at calm. He said it is worrisome because farmers were main complainers about LITS and now they want to return back to it.
For his part, the System Developer for BAITS at Consult IT, Alfred Kale encouraged farmers to embrace BAITS, adding that it is user friendly. He said they system is effective cause you can report any missing animal on it therefore reduce the escalating matimela cattle.END