Farmers in Mohembo West are on high alert following the announcement of a possible re-emergence of the deadly Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) in their area. The Ministry of Agriculture on Tuesday confirmed that it is investigating incidences of FMD that were recently reported in that part of the Okavango District. By late Friday the Department of Veterinary Service issued a press release stating that there is a suspected FMD outbreak in Shakawe at Mohembo east crush.
“While continuing with further investigations and putting in place measures to contain the outbreak, a movement standstill of livestock and their derived fresh products is imposed on zone 2a with immediate effect,” read the statement.
The possible re-emergence of FMD in these areas has been attributed to poor vaccination coverage in the area last year and early this year. Already nine animals have shown symptoms that are similar to those of animals infected by the FMD. On Tuesday, Assistant Minister of Agriculture, Oreeditse Molebatsi pleaded with farmers to always do their best to bring all their cattle for vaccinations.
Molebatsi said any outbreak would be detrimental to the animal production sub sector which has been hard hit by the disease in the past, particularly in the Ngamiland, North East and Bobirwa districts. The last FMD outbreak in the country last reported in September last year after a series of outbreaks in previous years. The outbreak, although blamed on failure by farmers to vaccinate their animals, has also been partly blamed on Government’s method of fighting the disease.
Earlier this year participants at the third National Competition Conference organised by the Competition Authority in Maun were told that efforts by the Department of Veterinary Services (DVS) to curb Foot and Mouth Disease in Ngamiland are too ‘traditional’ and ‘outmoded’, which therefore means the situation will not be contained anytime soon. Presenting on a topic entitled Beef Industry and competition on the case of Ngamiland, Professor Roman Grynberg of the Botswana Institute for Development Policy Analysis (BIDPA) condemned a decision by DVS to prohibit trade and movement of live animals in that area as he strongly believes the whole arrangement has done a lot more damage and has delayed progress as well.
He said there is an imperative need for DVS to build fences and vaccinate cattle in a way that will show advancement, failing which they might be seen to be fighting a battle that will never be won. Grynberg said Namibians in the Caprivi have moved to commodity based trade and are doing quite well, which should be the case with Botswana. He said unless the country through DVS starts benchmarking with their neighbours then there might not be any progress but continued failure on their part.
Grynberg added that it is very disturbing also to learn that cattle exported to Zimbabwe from Ngamiland still find markets in other countries such as Angola while Botswana is too relaxed to contain the disease and penetrate markets, but instead dwells on repeating unconvincing suggestions which will never take the country anywhere.
“The approach here is too old-fashioned and does not show any sense of maturity on the part of those that directly deal with the containment of the disease. We have talked and advised, but nothing seems to change, let alone bear any compelling results,” Grynberg said.