As Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) of Zimbabwean origin continues to imperil Botswana cattle herds on an on-off basis, it has come to light that in 2009, the European Union had to decommit Ôé¼9.1M that had been earmarked for a campaign to fight the disease.
Ambassador Gerard McGovern, the EU’s head of delegation, says that “the implementation of the project was faced with various difficulties, particularly as a result of the political situation in Zimbabwe. Overall progress was too slow and the project reached the year limit under EU rule: a project must be implemented within three years after the signing”.
However, just when EU plans to revive this project under a new format, political turmoil is returning to Zimbabwe, whose beef industry is not as important to the national economy as Botswana’s.
The project, which started in 2006 with a planned budget of Ôé¼12.6M (around P115 million), targeted three Southern African Development Community countries: Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique. The project partners were the SADC Directorate for Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources, Food and Agricultural Organisation and the Botswana Vaccine Institute. The project was signed between SADC and the EU. McGovern says that a total Ôé¼2.9M was contracted and disbursed to finance various activities.
The project’s aim was threefold: identifying the virus strains and manufacturing vaccine to eliminate the identified virus strains; implementing a border area vaccination campaign amongst the cattle populations closest to Zimbabwe’s neighbours; and, providing the resources to re-establish physical and managerial animal movement control systems to reduce the possibility for cross-border movements of animals.
However, the project coincided with the advent of political turmoil in Zimbabwe. At the time that it started, there was bitter wrangling in both of Zimbabwe’s main political parties – the ruling ZANU-PF and the Movement for Democratic Change. The upheaval peaked in June 27 2008 with a presidential election that produced no clear winner although there is strong speculation that Morgan Tsvangirai beat incumbent Robert Mugabe hands down.
While politics was getting in the way, the clock was steadily ticking for the FMD project and in 2009, its lifespan had come to an end with a lot of valuable time and opportunities having been lost. The project came to an end in June 2009 and in accordance with the three-year EU rule, Ôé¼9.1M had to be de-committed. According to McGovern, SADC and the EU “are currently reviewing their cooperation and moving from a project approach to a programme approach mainly based on the assessed issues to implement projects.
However, this development comes just as the political situation in Zimbabwe shows signs of returning to its election-year abnormality. Last Saturday, some 54 activists – among them trade unionists and students, were arrested at a mass lecture on the revolutions that toppled the leaders of Egypt and Tunisia.
This week, human rights and pro-democracy groups warned they would protest against political hooliganism and violence being perpetrated by ZANU-PF operatives. This happens as the country is expected to hold parliamentary elections sometime this year.
The beef industry is a major contributor to the national economy and a mainstay of rural economy. In his 2011/12 budget speech, finance minister Kenneth Matambo announced that the Botswana Meat Commission recorded a net loss of P92.5 million.