Biosecurity refers to measures that are taken to stop the spread or introduction of harmful organisms to human, animal and plant life. Such measures are a combination of processes and systems that have been put in place by bio-scientists, customs agents and agricultural managers to prevent the use of dangerous pathogens and toxins that could endanger life.
According to Mogomotsi Moatswi, a Disease Management Officer in the Plant Protection Department at the Ministry of Agriculture, Botswana has been declared a net importer of agriculture produce with 80 percent of its food coming from across the border. This places the country at risk in terms of food safety. Though Botswana has put in place measures to step up food production and reduce being a net importer of food, the lack of biosecurity compliance has made this almost impossible.
“The ministry is currently facilitating an awareness campaign towards a fair, safe and genuine agriculture trade with the aim of protecting the nation,” he said.
He cautioned that people must not think that food that does not have any blemishes is perfect for consumption, as that is not true.
“Food that doesn’t attract any living organisms could be a clear indication that it has been sprayed with chemicals that are not good for even humans. We have reason to believe that there is a lot of such produce that gets smuggled into the country,” said Moatswi.
Through the South East District is one of the smallest in the country, it hosts the most activity in terms of trade. The Tlokweng Border Post is the busiest in the country and the bulk of goods that cross the border daily are non compliant, especially fresh produce. Moatswi said it is important for traders, travelers, exporters and tourists to understand the role of clearing agents.
“We need to be forthcoming in declaring the foodstuffs we are crying across the border to enable proper checking for compliance by border officials. Concerns about biosecurity are of international nature and we all need to be aware of this,” said Moatswi.
Moatswi urged the public to understand that boarder post searches are meant for their benefit and therefore willingly cooperate. He said issues of quality in diet have recognizable effects that can only penetrate the country through counterfeit foodstuffs. Moatswi said transporters should give border employees enough time to check the goods that they bring into the country. Ignatius Sennenyane of the Department of Veterinary Services says borders have a legal significance and could cause dispute if they are not adequately dealt with. He further said the ministry has no choice but to strive for some form of quarantine or biosecurity Act.