Farmers in the Zone six region (North East District) whose cattle were replaced by government after the Foot Mouth Disease (FMD) scourge in 2011 are demanding that government should re-compensate because the restocked cattle are dying in large numbers. Government in 2011 embarked on a wholesale cattle depopulation exercise in the Zone six regions following an outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD). The depopulation was carried out to prevent the disease from spreading to non-affected areas.
Government began a restocking exercise last year to compensate farmers who were affected by the disease. It emerged during a consultative meeting between deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Dr Moetapele Letshwenyo and Tsamaya villagers last week, that according to government records, 521 of restocked cattle have died since last year. The villagers accused government of impoverishing them by compensating them with disease infected cattle.
“Instead of eradicating poverty the government is dragging us back into poverty. Our cattle were killed in 2011 and all the government did was to replace our livestock with these unhealthy animals which are mysteriously dying in large numbers. Most of these cattle are also difficult to keep because they are wild. Ten of my cattle have since escaped and have been missing for almost two months and four of them died mysteriously. I plead with the government to compensate me for these four cattle.
I believe these cattle were already sick when I received them,” said Lucas Abel of Mabudzane village He further accused government of taking farmers in the North East District for granted. He said that government should take into cognition the fact that most North East District residents depend on livestock for their livelihood. Tshepo Thokwana, a farmer from Siviya Village also accused government of impoverishing people in the North East District. He took issue with the fact that government took almost three years to replace their cattle only to give them unhealthy animals.
“The sad part is that the government took three years to replace our cattle and now the cattle are dying mysteriously. I suspect that the reason why government bought these cattle to compensate us is because they were cheap and it is clear that they were not well looked after by the sellers. The cattle were already infected with diseases when they were given to us. I have lost five cattle already. The government should take the responsibility,” said Thokwana. He also lamented the shortage of veterinary officers in Siviya village saying that they depend on one officer who serves two other villages. “We are struggling in our village because we do not have a veterinary officer who is readily available to assist us when we need help. We used to have one and he was transferred to another area. If we had a veterinary officer, he would assist us deal with the problem,” he said.
Another farmer, Manthwa Jersey of Tsamaya village also complained about the shortage of veterinary officers in the District. He said that the government should increase the number of veterinary officers so that they can assist farmers and help them take care of their animals. “If we had enough veterinary officers, some of these cattle could have not died as the officers would assist us on how take care of the cattle,” he said. He also accused the Ministry of Agriculture for failing to educate the farmers on how to take care of the cattle prior to the re-stocking exercise.
“One of the main reasons why these cattle are dying is because farmers were not educated on how to take care of these cattle,” he said. Responding to the concerns, the Deputy Permanent Secretary, Dr Letshwenyo said that the issue of compensation at this stage is difficult. He said that he will have to discuss it with his superiors at the Ministry. “At this moment I cannot make any decisions regarding compensation for the cattle because we still have to research, discuss with my seniors to try and find out what is really causing the deaths of the cattle.
We also have to find out if the cattle died due to negligence of the farmers or our negligence. One of the most difficult aspects is that we have to verify the number of cattle which are dead and those that are missing. The report we have so far is that 521 of the restocked cattle died,” he said. Dr Letshwenyo said according to the report, 300 of the restocked cattle died in the government holding camps while 221 died in the hands of the farmers both in the zone 6 and zone 7 regions. He informed the farmers that the relocation of animals from one area to another area is itself a challenge which normally leads to such calamities.
“We bought these cattle in areas as far as Kgalagadi and Ghanzi. I totally agree that some of the cattle are wild because they are trying to adapt to a new environment. However, I will take all your concerns to the ministry and we will see how we can assist you. You need to be assured that the government loves you and it will never do anything deliberately to impoverish you,” he concluded.