Unless there is a serious, coordinated action by both the farmers and authorities, the dreaded Food and Mouth Disease stands to flatten Botswana’s once promising beef industry.
As we write this piece, it is two months or more since the Botswana Meat Commission was closed on account of the FMD outbreak in the north.
Indications, at least from the Ministry of Agriculture, are that containing the disease has not been an easy task.
Almost on a weekly basis there is news that the disease may actually have flared into areas hitherto classified as safe.
The upshot of it all is that the more the disease spreads the costlier and harder it becomes to control.
In some areas like Maun and the rest of Ngami as well as in other places down south to areas like Mmadinare and Tobane, Batswana have not sold their herds for years owing to foot and mouth.
This has brought poverty, but also tension between citizens and government.
That is really unfortunate.
We commend Government on the efforts as shown by the Ministry of Agriculture, especially the Veterinary Services and Animal Health to control foot and mouth.
Demarcating new areas and fencing such areas does not come cheap, especially in the difficult economic times that we are going through.
Elsewhere in this newspaper edition we write that Government of Botswana intends to help their Zimbabwean counterparts by vaccinating the affected cattle in the country to our east, as for most of the time scientists had proved that the attacks here had originated from the in.
That is commendable too.
By helping the Zimbabwean, we are helping ourselves.
That, we suppose, is what neighbours are for. That we suppose is not only our culture as Africans, it also is what friends are for.
Stage managing an artificial standoff as our government tried three years ago was never going to help.
As Thabo Mbeki, the former South African President once observed, attacking one another as Africans may win us nice media headlines, but once the cameras are gone we find that we still share borders and are bound to not only face one another but co-exist.
Having said that, we call on our Government to remain steadfast in its efforts to eradicate foot and mouth.
There is no emphasising the importance of cattle in Botswana’s political economy.
We also want to point out that Government efforts will not go far if such efforts are not complimented by us the citizens, especially the farmers and those people who find themselves having to travel and or do business in red zones.
We call on everybody to cooperate with the police, with the military officers and veterinary officers who are charged with enforcing the regulations as a result of the outbreak.
Past experience from outbreaks, such as the lung diseases in Ngami in the 1990s, showed that government lost a lot of money as a result of relaxing procurement procedures as a result of an emergency.
Commissions instituted later found out that the losses could not be justified, not even in the face of an emergency.
We call on the Ministry of Agriculture to be on the lookout against a recurrence of such mistakes.
We are today living in difficult times.
And it is simply unsustainable as to be impossible that we could raise the kind of money we did some twenty years ago when the economy was at its best.
In that token, it is our hope that whatever resources are allocated to fight foot and mouth outbreaks in the emergencies that we face will be deployed sparingly, and used wisely and irreproachably.
It is only when there is a wise allocation of resources that, as a country, we could go an extra mile to fight what threatens to be a protracted battle against a monster that literally threatens to throw many households into despicable poverty.