Scores of farmers in the North East District’s Zone Six who were┬ánegatively affected by the outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) last year are scouring out alternative grazing lands ahead of the anticipated May 2012 restocking exercise.
Following the outbreak of FMD in Zones Six and Seven last year, government embarked on a massive disease eradication exercise to curb the further┬áspread of the epidemic to other parts of the country.
The exercise involved the sale of at least 45 000 cattle to the Cold Storage Commission of Zimbabwe and the slaughter of those that were not deemed suitable for human consumption.
In return, the farmers were compensated P1500 per beast. In addition, farmers with more than 10 cattle will be compensated with the first 10 cattle and then compensated at a rate of 30:70 in kind and cash, respectively.
Famers with less than 10 cattle have been allowed to choose the ratio of compensation with some in a typical ‘once beaten twice shy’ fashion, opting for an all out monetary compensation.
This is the second time in less than 10 years that some farmers in Zone 6 (especially the Matsiloje area) were hit by the epidemic and the resultant slaughter of all their cattle as a measure of curbing the further spread of the disease to other areas.
Fearing a future recurrence of the outbreak, some farmers have since the killing of their cattle been looking for alternative grazing lands west of the railway line in Zone 6, ┬áas the last outbreak was on the western side, along the border with Zimbabwe.
The majority of the farmers who were affected by the outbreak were from the Tati East constituency which has now been left without any cattle in the wake of the eradication exercise. Some┬áparts of the Tonota North constituency were also affected including Zone 7 in the Bobirwa area.
In an interview, Tati East MP Samson Moyo Guma, admitted that some families in his constituency have been deprived of their only source of livelihood or income by the outbreak.
“They have been impoverished. Their quality of life has been affected. Others had heavily invested in cattle and the outbreak was a major blow to their source of wealth. Take for instance farmers who had bought quality breeds of cattle which have been killed or sold and compensated less than what┬áthey had invested. That is no doubt a big blow to such farmers,” said Guma.
The effects of the outbreak notwithstanding, Guma said given the limited resources, government did its best in trying to help the farmers.
┬á“This was a disaster that nobody (both farmers and the government) had anticipated. But the consultative process leading to the eradication exercise was extensive as government had to shift from one point to the other in order to accommodate the interests of the farmers.
“I am quite happy so far that the outcome of the consultations was mutual.┬á It is a fact that the compensation was not sufficient but that is the best that the government could afford,” said Guma, who added that the outbreak was not only limited to his constituency but to other areas like Zone 7 and Ngamiland.
He said the outbreak was a national problem and resources had to be mobilized to ensure that the disease was contained in one area before it could┬áspread to other parts of the country where it would have affected the whole cattle and beef industry.
The independent legislator said the outbreak underpins the importance of economic diversification to mitigate against the effects of such disasters, adding that the biggest problem is that the source of the outbreak was in Zimbabwe where there is not much concerted effort in combating the disease, hence the decision by Botswana government to assist with the supply of┬áone million doses of FMD vaccine.
As a way forward, he implored government to create a buffer zone along the border with Zimbabwe in addition to rezoning Zone 6 as in his view it is too large.
┬áHe added that the rezoning should include paddocks so that if there is an outbreak, it could easily be contained within that particular paddock before spreading to the whole zone.
With regard to the measures that were taken in the aftermath of the outbreak, he applauded the eradication exercise and that all was not lost since government has undertaken to embark on a restocking exercise immediately after the area has been cleared of the disease.
┬áGuma emphasized that it┬áwas important to diversify the sources of livelihood so that cattle farming is not the only source of income for people, especially in his constituency.
Asked whether it would not be prudent for government to relocate the farmers, especially that this is the second time that the disease spilled from Zimbabwe into Botswana, Guma said that might be┬áinconvenient for small farmers.
“As for big farmers, I think relocation is a viable option. But for small farmers it may be difficult. We have to accept to live with the problem for as long as we put in measures to ensure that we can contain the┬áoutbreaks by creating appropriate buffer zones,” he said.
Guma commended both governments (Botswana and Zimbabwe) for teaming up in the fight against FMD, adding that a regional effort must be mounted in the fight against animal disease because no country can win that battle on its own.
“We need a SADC regional initiative in the fight against animal diseases because diseases always spill from one country into the other. It is high┬átime that the Heads of State at SADC level discuss integrated measures aimed at┬áfighting animal diseases.”