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Gov’t blames farmers for repeated FMD outbreaks

Acting Assistant Minister of Agriculture, Fidelis Molao

In a dramatic turn of events, the government has shifted blame on the Ngamiland farmers for their role in the continued Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) outbreaks in the area.

Ngamiland farmers had accused the government for manufacturing and infecting their cattle with FMD, in a bid to forcefully remove them from the district, to pave way for tourism activity in that area. The government has instead come back to say the farmers are the ones at fault since they do not play their roles of vaccinating their cattle and controlling their movement.  

President Ian Khama who recently addressed Kgotla meetings in Maun expressed disappointment and concern, regarding the farmers’ ineffectiveness in working with government in its effort to control FMD in the Ngamiland. He revealed that Government spends almost P20 million annually in Ngamiland alone to fight the FMD outbreaks.

Khama’s concern follows another FMD outbreak announcement by the Ministry of Agriculture. The ministry confirmed that during a usual check routine inspection of cattle for trade, some livestock were found with lesions apparently due to FMD in the Kareng area within Maxembo and Lekurutshe crushes.

Subsequently a surveillance carried out between 10th March and 15th March 2015 has so far cumulatively revealed 59 cases of FMD in areas of Maxembo, Mokgalo and Motopi II reflecting 13, 11 35 of FMD cases respectively.

On Tuesday, Acting Assistant Minister of Agriculture, Fidelis Molao also remonstrated before the North West District Council (NWDC) that it had become apparent that among major contributing factors of the FMD outbreaks is that farmers were not playing their role fairly well. He expressed that in order for government to succeed on FMD management a joint effort between Ministry of Agriculture and farmers was crucial.

Molao explained that if farmers continued to snub cattle vaccinations, efforts by government to control the disease will remain unsuccessful. He went on to reveal that further inspections by his Ministry showed that in one particular crush, out of the 118 cattle inspected only six had proof of vaccination against FMD from the recent campaign translating to only seven percent of them.

Molao highlighted that upon the recent outbreak, during their ring vaccination that runs for 28 days they discovered other FMD cases and the number had increased to 85 of which 45 cattle did not have the last vaccination brand.

The acting Assistant Minister further told the council that vaccinations statistics in the district were at 57 percent, compared to the average coverage of 85 percent.
“We must admit that still on the ongoing vaccination, overall coverage is not as good as it should be,” he complained.

For his part, NWDC chairman Reaboka Mbulawa told the council that the frequent FMD outbreaks were a sign of lack of prudence by Ngamiland farmers. He explained that the scenario calls for district leadership to take a robust and collective action towards the eradication of FMD.

“The council proposes a district action plan named FMD Operation Restore the District which is a 24 months plan that would help battle the disease. Sensitization on the plan will start midyear,” he revealed.

BMC Abattoir

Meanwhile claims made by the acting Assistant Minister that Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) Maun Abattoir had started the process of increasing the throughput (kill per day) by automating the overhead rail contradicted an earlier statement by BMC Maun abattoir plant Manager Mothobi Mothobi.

Mothobi told WeekendPost in an interview that due to the small capacity of the abattoir and use of manual manpower it would be impossible for the plant to accommodate an extra number of cattle to be slaughtered per day.

Acting assistant Minister had however told the North West District Council that the government expects to increase the abattoir slaughtering capacity from 100 to 120 head per day. He further added that the capacity could also be increased to 180 head per day if a double shift is operated.

Meanwhile this publication has learnt that Maun abattoir is still far from reaching slaughtering of 180 head per day.  It is understood that the current number the abattoir could take in per day is 95 cattle. In 2012 the abattoir managed to slaughter 60 per day, in 2013 the number increased to 80. Last year it also increased to 90 and this year there has only been a slight increase to 95 head per day.

Claims made by the Minister comes after it was revealed that to help decrease the spread of FMD there is need to reduce the number of cattle from areas where there is an outbreak by slaughtering more cattle per day. Report indicates that Ngamiland remains the district with the largest number of cattle, the district has a capacity of around 450 000 of cattle.

The recent outbreak has also affected the trading opportunity that was reaching final agreements between Botswana and Thailand.  The two countries were reported to have had a concluding deal to trade both live cattle and meat to Thailand. The deal was cut off short by the recent outbreak from Kareng area as Thailand saw the deal as an FMD threat to them.

“This opportunity was going to assist in improving the marketing of cattle and livelihoods of Batswana,” stressed Molao.

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