A Maun cattle farmer and physical fitness instructor, Simmon Axl Phuthego, has decided to ‘torture’ himself in an effort to draw government’s attention to the plight of the cattle industry in the Ngami area.
Phuthego, 37, says he is frustrated by government’s seeming lack of interest and political will in addressing the concerns of farmers in Ngamiland and finding a permanent solution.
The 100 kilometre walk, scheduled for June this year, will start from Sehithwa and end in Maun where Phuthego will deliver a petition to the Minister of Agriculture through the Maun District Commissioner’s office.
Phuthego said in an interview that it is disheartening that while many people in Ngamiland are cattle farmers, they have nothing to show for their cattle wealth. Phuthego, who said he owns around 250 herd of cattle, decried the lack of market for farmers in Ngamiland. He said apart from government failing to secure markets for their cattle, it becomes even harder for them to sell their cattle to butcheries.
The only abattoir available in Maun is privately owned and charges farmers exorbitant prices. Phuthego wondered why the local council authority couldn’t construct a public abattoir because currently farmers have to fend for themselves and pay for all costs that arise from getting meat to the butcheries.
If a farmer wants to sell a cow to the butchery, he has to transport the live cow from the cattle post to the abattoir at his own expenses and pay P350 as slaughtering services for a single beast. Thereafter, the farmer has to incur more expenses to transport the carcass to the butchery and, as a result, selling a cow in Maun is of no economic benefit to the farmers.
Phuthego also accused the Department of Veterinary Services for what he views as deliberate failure to curb the spread of the Foot and Mouth disease in the area. He said their efforts to curb the spread of the disease are ineffective and wondered why motorists are made to dip their shoes in medicated water at the Makalamabedi and Kuke gates yet tourists who fly from the delta where there are plenty of buffalo do not go through the same routine at the airports.
The flamboyant and stocky farmer said if government truly wants to eradicate poverty, it should find permanent solutions to boost cattle farming in Ngamiland.
“We can alleviate poverty if the beef industry is supported because we use cattle to send our children to schools and our parents to hospitals,” said Phuthego.
He added that instead of doling out blankets to people in Ngami, most of whom own cattle, government should work towards making cattle farming more lucrative so that people can be empowered and stop relying on government handouts. He said the area has the biggest population of cattle in the country as some could be seen roaming the city centre of Maun but their owners are hopeless because they can’t reap any economic benefits from these cattle.
Phuthego implored government to find market for foot and mouth infected cattle because, according to him, “no person has ever died from eating meat from foot and mouth infected cow”.
Through his planned walk, Phuthego hopes to draw the attention of government to the sad state of the beef industry in the Ngami area.