Okavango farmers say that they are grateful of government and Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) scheme that is aimed at opening up market for their cattle in Zimbabwe.
One of the farmers, chief Lempadi Lempadi, said that he was happy with the scheme which has seen many farmers who have been impoverished by lack of market for their cattle in the past now being able to sell them at far much higher prices than they used to get in the past.
“Some farmers have been paid P5000 for a single beast which is the highest price ever paid for a single beast in the district,” he said. He said the high prices were sure to make more people to be interested in cattle farming once again.
However, he lamented that some farmers were not able to sell their cattle because they were not vaccinated as farmers had feared moving their cattle to vaccinations points fearing they would be poisoned by mogau, a poisonous plant common in the area and that he hopes that the Department of Veterinary will organize another vaccination campaign to cater for such farmers.
Echoing Lempadi was another farmer Frank Disho who said that he was paid P4, 500 for a beast saying he had never dreamt that he would receive so much money for a single beast.
Okavango and Ngamiland farmers have not been able to sell their cattle to the abattoirs in the country because of frequent out breaks of foot and mouth disease in the two districts. The last outbreak occurred in Kareng area of Ngamiland last year.
The Maun abattoir, which has been refurbished to cater for the two districts, is only managing to slaughter 150 cattle per day, which is far below demand of farmers wishing to sell their cattle. This had put pressure on the government to look for alternative markets for the districts ever growing cattle population which was recently estimated to be around 100,000 by the Minister of Agriculture, Christian Degraaf.
Degraaf, at a press conference he addressed late last year, said that their fear was that if a catastrophe such as drought occurred in the two areas, “the rot smell will be smelt as far as Gaborone”.
Botswana Meat Commission’s Tiro Kganela was not able to say how many cattle they have sold to Zimbabwe so far. Live cattle are sold to abattoirs in Bulawayo for slaughter purposes only. At the first announcement of the project, some farmers in Zimbabwe were against it, saying that the project would drive cattle farmers out of business.