The Director of Veterinary Services, Dr Musa Fanikiso, has reiterated the government’s position that Ngamiland cattle will not be killed to stop the spread of foot and mouth in the area.
This comes after farmers in Ngamiland expressed fears over the Christmas and New Year holidays that the government was now bound to take a decision to slaughter their cattle since the disease had spread from Habu, where the disease was first detected, to areas around Sehitwa and Gumare, some distance from Habu.
Answering a questionnaire on the issue, Fanikiso said that they had already informed farmers in kgotla meetings about the government’s decision that their cattle would not be killed to control the disease.
He also said that they could not yet conclude that the disease is out of control as the current cases are occurring within the same zone and that cases are, in fact, showing a downward trend following repeated vaccinations.
The Director also said that they were not aware of deliberate intentions by farmers to spread the disease as it is being claimed that some farmers are deliberately driving their cattle from infected areas to non-infected areas in order to avoid having them killed in case the government made such a decision.
Fanikiso said that what they know is the failure by farmers to effectively manage their cattle by controlling their movement adding that uncontrolled but unintentional cattle movements have spread the disease.
He also expressed no knowledge of any farmers who had been arrested for intentionally moving cattle from infected areas to non-infected areas.
But word in Maun was that the cattle, which were finally detected to have the disease in areas around Sehitwa, were intentionally moved from the Habu area.
He also said that they are currently on top of the situation and that, in their view, the outbreak is fully under control as in accordance with the adopted strategies of fighting the disease.
The situation they found themselves in at the moment, he said, is that they are fighting an outbreak in a vast and difficult area without any natural or man made barriers such as fences.
He explained that the strategy they adopted was that of intensive vaccination and controlled movement of cattle, adding that their challenges continue to be the uncontrolled movement of cattle causing the spread of the disease in the area.
On what had caused the outbreak in the first place, Fanikiso said that they think that the outbreak resulted from the more than usual flooding of the Okavango River in recent times.
He said these floods, which filled Lake Ngami, reached areas on the livestock side of the buffalo fence, bringing with it wild animals such as elephants and buffaloes resulting in damage to the fence by elephants and the access of cattle into the delta side and the possible access of buffaloes to livestock side.
Fanikiso also lashed at farmers’ failure to curb their cattle from straying too close to the buffalo fence and added that, due to recent floods, the fence dividing grazing land and buffaloes had became inaccessible to veterinary fence maintenance and patrol teams to the extent that at one point some teams were cut from the rest of the district and had to be evacuated.
On what he thought is the long term solution to the problem, Fanikiso said that effective separation of cloven hoofed animals from the buffaloes, which are known long carriers of the foot and mouth virus, was the long term solution adding that his department is currently upgrading and electrifying the buffalo fence to a more robust barrier.
The challenge to this strategy, he said, was the large number of elephants in the area which he says present “a single major challenge to the integrity of the fence” and that they hoped to work with other stakeholders to address this problem.