Friday, February 26, 2021

We should protect our cattle the same way we do with wildlife

This week the Ministry of Agriculture and food security confirmed a suspected outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) in Namanyane crush, Sehithwa extension area in the Ngamiland District.

As a result, and as expected the slaughter and movement of all cloven hoofed animals and their fresh products within and out of Ngamiland have been suspended until further notice. This will, as it usually does disrupt the livelihoods of the already poor people of Ngamiland. As we all might be aware, following an ill advised decision to ban both fishing and hunting in that side of the country, the economic livelihoods of Ngamiland dwellers now depend on cattle raring. Ngamiland district amongst others has long been officially declared the country’s poorest and of late has been identified to be leading the unemployment pack also. This certainly means the people there makes a large population of those whose regular income, if any, is at the lower end of the bracket. The situation as we have already stated has been worsened by the ban of export of dried fish from the area. For the sake of the readers who might not be aware, the government has since banned exportation of dried fish ÔÇô a move that we all know will disadvantage the small Ngamiland fisherman whilst giving advantage to those with financial muscle as they are able to procure expensive refrigerators.

Whilst we weep for this new outbreak of FMD, we should not in any way try to ignore the fact that small scale fisheries are a major source of rural employment, revenue generation, food nutrition security and a major source of livelihoods for communities such as those in Ngamiland district.

We have been told before that total fish production from Lake Ngami, has been generating revenue of approximately P2 million yearly.

The lake, as we might be force to re-state, is not only a source of rural employment for the people of Ngamiland but also has the potential to contribute to a reduction in Botswana’s food import bill at a national scale. It is for this reason that we believe that the banning of fish is ill advised and need to be revoked.

Fishing aside, indications atleast based on the number of times that FMD outbreak has been reported shows that containing the disease has not been an easy task for our country. But that does not mean we should give up our fight against it. We certainly have to fight it until we eradicate it. If the highest office in the land has set an ambitious project to eradicate poverty, why can’t the ministry of Agriculture take the same vow to protect our cattle? We all know that the ministry of wildlife leads when it comes to protection of certain animals, and we believe the same energy can be used by MOA to ensure that farmers do not lose their most precious assets being cattle.

It is common cause that the persistent outbreaks of FMD have negatively impacted the agricultural sector’s contribution to the overall Gross Domestic Product which has plummeted to around four percent to date. Unless there is a serious, coordinated action by both the farmers and authorities, the dreaded Food and Mouth Disease stands to once again flatten the once promising beef industry.

For so many donkey years now the northern parts of the country have been grappling with persistent outbreaks of FMD. The outbreaks have had dire consequences for the cattle farming industry – a primary contributor to the agricultural sector and the rural economy.

As it stands, it is not only farmers in the Ngamiland who are worried by the persistent outbreaks of FMD. The recent drought problem has seen a migration of elephants from the neighbouring Zimbabwe into Botswana. The elephants are reported to be destroying cordon fences and thereby defeating the cattle movement restrictions. It should therefore not come as a shock if we are to hear another outbreak, on the north eastern side of the country.

It has become apparent that our Government’s efforts to arrest this dreadful disease has been disjointed and lacking in political will. Even after the Botswana Vaccine Institute (BVI) went an extra mile a few years ago to produce the anti-purified vaccine to fight the disease, there appears to be no long lasting solution on sight ÔÇô atleast for Ngamiland farmers.

For quite a long time now, the Government has been passing the blame to the farmers for what she says is failure to heed control measures by not reporting suspected cases of the outbreak to veterinary officers. It is quiet relieving to note that in the latest case, it was the farmers who are said to have reported their sighting of cattle that were showing suspicious signs. This is the collective responsibility that should be encouraged and be practised if we are to win against this dreadful disease.

The #Bottomline is that the more the disease spreads the costlier and harder it becomes to control and sadly in the process this brings with it poverty as well as tension between citizens and government. We therefore call on the powers that be to remain steadfast in their efforts to eradicate FMD.

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