Monday, April 12, 2021

Government in the process of dividing Zone 6

To avert future prospects of killing cattle in the wake of animal diseases’ outbreaks, especially the endemic Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) in the Zone 6 of the North East District, government is in the process of dividing the zone in two.

The government decision was communicated to Matshelagabedi farmers in a meeting addressed by Minister of Agriculture Christiaan De Graaff last Thursday ahead of the impending cattle restocking exercise.

Following FMD outbreak of last year, government took a decision to sell the infected cattle that were suitable for human consumption to the Cold Storage Commission of Zimbabwe, in addition to killing those that were deemed not suitable for human consumption. Government raised P50 million from the sale.

The disease eradication exercise saw the culling of 51 000 cattle in Zone 6 and some parts of the adjoining Zone 7 in the Bobirwa area.

The minister said following the outbreak of FMD last year, government outlined a number of measures that it had put in place to avert future outbreaks including the rezoning of the containment Zone 6.
“A containment zone has been designated, probably to be named Zone 6 (B). That zone will have to stand on its own. After the designation and the eradication exercise has been completed, an application will be made to OIE,” said Minister De Graaff.

The minister said although the disease eradication exercise is drawing to a close with 99 percent of the farmers having been compensated ahead of the restocking exercise, restocking in Zone 6 may be delayed slightly to surveillance indication of animals’ susceptibility to the disease.

He said while pigs are free of the disease, one case has been diagnosed in goats and further surveillance investigations would be carried out until the first week of June before an application to have the area declared FMD free is made to the OIE.

De Graaff said his ministry has already appointed a restocking coordinator and promised the farmers that once all the processes and sourcing of quality cattle has been completed, the restocking exercise will be commenced. The restocking was initially scheduled for this month.

“I want to assure that you will be supplied with quality tamed cattle. The restocking exercise will be transparent and the exercise will be carried out transparently with farmers being given the cattle randomly. As for Zone 7, the cattle will be sourced from the same zone,” said the minister.

Although the disease eradication exercise is drawing to a close, the minister pointed out that “while the disease is under control, we are not yet out of the woods because of rampant movement of people and cattle on the other side of the border (Zimbabwe) which is a real threat to Botswana”.

He called for collective responsibility in the fight against the disease, especially on maintenance of control measures, adding that some farmers in Zone 7 were already vandalizing the fence demarcating Zone 6 from Zone 7 because of poor grazing in their zone.

The other threat the minister alluded to was the destruction of the fence by elephants along the Shashe River and consequently causing cattle to stray into Zone 6.

He said if cattle from Zone 7 crossed into Zone 6, they will be killed and the owners compensated with P400 per beast.

On other measures, he said government is busy looking for alternative markets for cattle in those areas that are not eligible to sell to the lucrative EU market adding that the identified emerging markets also demanded sanitary conditions equivalent to those of the EU.

The markets that government is looking are those for beef and live animals.

He said Zimbabwe has already agreed to buy cattle from Ngamiland and so far 6 000 cattle from that region have already been exported to the Cold Storage Commission of Zimbabwe.

Responding to farmers’ request that they be allowed to sell the cattle on their own instead of selling to the BMC which set its own prices, De Graff said the mandate of the BMC is very important although the BMC Act is in the process of being amended to end the BMC monopoly.

“We expect parliament to pass the amendments in the coming session of parliament to end the BMC monopoly. BMC will be used as a slaughtering facility once the amendments have been passed”, said the agriculture minister.

On the back of the appreciation by farmers on measures undertaken by government to mitigate against the impact of FMD, De Graaff said government has phased out previous assistance programmes like ALDEP and replaced it with ISPAAD on the realization that the previous assistance schemes were not very helpful to the farmers.

“Since the implementation of ISPAAD, crop production has tripled. I know the pain that you are going through. I want to thank the farmers in your zone and your MP for constantly engaging my ministry on the restocking exercise. I agree that next time there is an outbreak, your cattle should not be killed. The new purified vaccine will help us to vaccinate the cattle instead of killing the cattle because we will be able to identify infected cattle from the non-infected. Previously it was difficult to scientifically identify the sick cattle from the non-sick cattle,” said the minister to the delight of the farmers.

He stressed that on the back of all the measures that government was putting in place in the fight against FMD, there will be no need in the future to kill all the cattle in the case of an FMD outbreak.

This is second time in a space of 10 years that the farmers in the area had endured the killing of their cattle as a disease containment from feared spillover to other areas of the country that were not yet affected.

Responding to Chitumba Katumbela who had decried that pig farmers lacked a market to which to sell to, the minister instructed his officials to quickly arrange a meeting with the farmers in order to address the issue.

The FMD update meeting was attending by among others the area MP Samson Moyo Guma. Before the Matshelagabedi meeting the minister had held another meeting with Matsiloje farmers. He then proceed to Mokubilo.

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper