Wesbank

Counter accusations on FMD resurgence

SHARE   |   Sunday, 22 March 2015   |   By Othusitse Tlhobogang
Cattle in the Ngamiland region Cattle in the Ngamiland region

The resurgence of Foot and Mouth Disease (FDM) in the country has become a cause for concern to the Ministry of Agriculture. Even though the ministry has waged a war to totally eradicate FMD from the country their efforts are defeated by the continued resurgence in some areas especially in Zone 2 and 6. 
Just two weeks ago there has been a reported reappearance of FMD in the Kareng area in Ngamiland (Zone 2). According to the acting Minister of Agriculture Patrick Ralotsia, 59 cases of FMD have been recorded in the area from three crushes of Maxebo, Mokgalo and Motopi II.
Addressing the media Ralotsia aired concerns about the resurgence of the deadly disease saying it poses great danger to the livelihood of Batswana who are dependent on livestock. The acting Minister however assured that because of the war the ministry has waged on FMD, the outbreak has been quickly contained. “The movement of cattle is regulated within the area and even the abattoir has not stopped slaughtering. It is because of the war we declared on FMD that we managed to react very fast to clamp down the disease,” he said.
Nonetheless according to Ralotsia further inspections that the ministry has carried out have revealed that farmers are not doing enough to help government on this fight. He said it has become apparent that this is one of the major factors contributing to the recurrent outbreaks of FMD in Botswana. “In a particular crush out of the 118 cattle that were inspected only 6 had proof of vaccination against FMD from the most recent campaign translating only to 7%,” he added.
This development is of great concern to the ministry as it is a sign that farmers are not availing their livestock for the vaccinations, a factor that may be contributing to the resurgence of FMD. The acting minister said as long as farmers do not play their role by bringing cattle for vaccination then government’s efforts to eradicate FMD will be in vain. He therefore called on Batswana to help government to help them.
On the other hand, farmers in the area did not take the comment lightly saying it is not only defaming their characters but also an insult to them. Chairman of Northwest Integrated Farmers Association (NIFA) Simon Bojosi said if there is a problem leading to these resurgences it is on the part of government. Bojosi said he does not imply that farmers do not have a contribution but more responsibility is on the hands of the government. “If there is anything the contribution to this problem is 35% on farmers and 65% from government,” he said. He argued that there are very few strategies used to control FMD in their area which include vaccine, animal movement control and surveillance and they are all failing.
“There is no proper law on the FMD matter. For instance if a person is found moving livestock without permission, he is only charged P100,” said Bojosi. He argued that this is not stringent enough to deter people from doing this. Another point was raised by the NIFA chairman saying they have long been calling for a proper law for all animals and livestock that cross the fences to either side to be killed but nothing has been done to that effect.
Apart from not availing the cattle by farmers another contributing factor has been attributed to the poor state of the cordon fence that is said to be delapidated. The cordon fence is a barrier that prevents the mixing of wild animals and livestock in the area. With the fence torn down it allows for free movement of both wildlife and cattle and this poses a greater danger of livestock contacting FMD from the buffalo hosts.  Bojosi said they have long requested to be provided with markets to sell their cattle and will each donate a cow towards the electrifying of the buffalo fence in the area to restrict movement. He said even up to now there has never been any response from government. “Now they are saying we are at fault while it is them who are dragging their feet to address this matter,” fumed Bojosi.
He added that as the association they are doing all they can to sensitise the farming population about the importance of taking their cattle for vaccinations. He also revealed that as farmers they are ready to help maintain and patrol the cordon fences in their area. This was also confirmed by acting assistant minister Fidelis Molao who recently visited the area. 
Meanwhile Ralotsia has cautioned farmers about the possible looming drought due to the unfavourable climate conditions this year. Low rainfall and high temperatures have greatly affected the grazing lands as a result pasture is not sufficient. The acting minister therefore advised farmers to consider destocking some of their livestock while they are still healthy enough to earn them good prices. “It is definitely clear that the worst is still to come looking at the current situation, I therefore advice farmers to sell some of their animals to remain with a manageable size,” he said.
Ngamiland is one of the areas with a lot of cattle and for a long time they have been denied to sell in the European market because of FMD. The shortage of markets has seen the number of cattle growing to 400,000 at some point, heightening the already heated conflict of wildlife and livestock in the area. The recent incidences of FMD in the area means the farmers will have to wait a little more for other markets to open up for them.
Ralotsia revealed that the outbreak has halted what could have been an opportunity for the Ngamiland farmers to sell to the Francistown abattoir. He said because of the deficiency experienced at the abattoir there were plans to slaughter cattle from Ngamiland for Francistown. However, he said because of the FMD outbreak the farmers have to wait a little while.

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