A number of farmers in the North East district were depressed and suicidal following a decision by government to kill their cattle in the fight against Foot and Mouth Disease ÔÇô a social worker revealed this week. North East District Council (NEDC) social worker attached at the FMD coordinating office Tobokani Mabongo said that counselling of affected farmers is on-going and yielding positive results. “When the culling of animals began, a lot of farmers were depressed and some of them were suicidal. We managed to counsel a lot of farmers who are currently coping with the calamity that befell them. In short they are responding well to our counselling.”
After prolonged delays, the P140 million cattle restocking exercise in Zone Six (North East District) has finally begun with the delivery of the first few batches of cattle and small stock. Government embarked on a wholesale cattle depopulation exercise in the area in the first quarter of 2011 following an outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD). The cattle depopulation was carried out to prevent the disease from spreading to non-affected areas. Addressing a press conference in Francistown, FMD coordinator in the Department of Veterinary Services (DVS) Dr Kekgonne Baipoledi said the restocking exercise encompasses 16 villages in Zone Six. Restocking in Zone Six follows the successful completion of a similar exercise in Zone Seven (Bobirwa area).
“Restocking in Zone Seven area is complete. We are currently buying, holding and distributing cattle for restocking in Zone Six and are on course. We have already started restocking animals in the villages of Ramokgwebana, Tshesebe and Jackalas No.1. In Patayamatebele we have already restocked 1000 small stock,” he said. Dr Baipolediwas optimistic that they are getting positive response from farmers in areas such as Boteti Sub District, Southern and Kgalagadi districts who are willing to sell them cattle for re-stocking.
He said that they have so far bought over 17 120 cattle for the restocking exercise. “The total number of cattle needed in the restocking exercise for both zones is 30 120. We managed to get 17 120 cattle and this helped us conclude the exercise in Zone Seven. We still need at least 14 700 small stock for restocking, but scores of beneficiaries are opting for monetary compensation,” he said Dr Baipoledi however enunciated a number of logistical challenges that they continue to encounter ranging from costly transportation of cattle from suppliers in far way places to inaccessible terrains in others.
“One of the problems is the relocation of farmers from the red zones to free (green) zone areas. These farmers are taking their time to collect their cattle which becomes costly for us as we have to feed them at the holding camps. Some of the farmers who sell cattle to us do not have bank accounts thus making it difficult for us to pay them. We have to issue them cheques which cause delays compared to electronic payments,” he said. On a positive note, Dr Baipoledi said that they have put in place an animal health team to assist the affected farmers in taking care of the cattle as they have to acclimatize to the new environment.
He further said that the cattle are not vaccinated against FMD as they were bought from FMD free areas. Regarding farmers’ fear that their cattle could be attacked by heart water disease as they have not been vaccinated against the disease, the veterinary surgeon explained that it is not necessary because heart-water as a tick-borne disease, it has to attack the animal first so that it is then cured of the infection. He explained further that if the cattle are vaccinated now before they are attacked by the disease, the vaccination has potential to cause drug resistance in future when the same animal is being treated after getting infection.
The FMD coordinator said they expect Zone Six restocking exercise to take at least two months depending on the number of cattle they are able to buy. Dr Baipoledi said Veterinary Services director has compiled and submitted a report to World Organization of Animal Health (OIE) to declare Zone Six FMD free. OIE will in turn furnish us with its own report declaring the area FMD free after conducting its own surveillance. He added that they embarked on the restocking exercise because they are satisfied that the area is now FMD free.