North faces cattle disaster

May 28, 2015, 8:02am

North faces cattle disaster

The government has authorised an immediate release of N$208 million, which includes N$51 million for border fences and vaccinations for 1.2 million cattle, as a national foot-and-mouth disease emergency grips the country.
Botswana will deliver 500 000 doses of vaccine today to Namibia as part of the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry’s bid to contain the disease that was first detected in the Ohangwena and Oshikoto Regions, but has since spread to Omusati while suspected cases have also been reported in the Kunene Region.
This has resulted in a ban on the marketing of all cattle and cattle products in the north-central regions, affecting thousands of farmers.
At a hastily called media conference yesterday, the ministry revealed the full extent of the crisis and the immediate interventions, which will include a range of government stakeholders. This follows an urgent Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.
“If we fail then the entire beef industry will be in jeopardy and Namibia cannot afford that. Livestock is the backbone of the country,” said Agriculture Minister John Mutorwa. “This thing is spreading very fast, but we must not panic.”
The money made available for the immediate intervention will include N$2.3 million for vaccine equipment, N$2.1 million for protective clothing, N$2.9 million for roadblock equipment, N$112 million for the FMD vaccine and N$9 million for casual labour .

Emergency situation
“Because it was an emergency, a crisis, the Cabinet authorised that the money could be used immediately as a response. There is no excuse when it comes to money, it has been authorised,” said Mutorwa.
The Meat Board of Namibia contributed an additional N$6 million to assist in controlling the outbreak. About 250 contract workers will be needed for the vaccination drive, while the ministry needs at least 40 additional 4x4 vehicles.
The ministry will mobilise a number of its staff and vehicles to strengthen the vaccination campaign. The Ministry of Works and Transport has been requested to make available additional vehicles to cover the shortfall.
Mutorwa announced a ban on the marketing of cattle and cattle products in the north-central regions, and the movement of animals has been restricted. Abattoirs in the north-central regions are also negatively affected.

Containment areas
The ministry has directed that the larger part of the north-central regions should be a containment area where surveillance of further possible cases will take place.
This stretches from Oshivelo to Oshikango and from Oshivelo to Katwitwi. According to Mutorwa the FMD cases detected so far all originated from cattle that had been grazing in Angola. As a long-term solution, Cabinet decided to erect a cordon fence on the Angolan border. There will be veterinary control points where animals are allowed to cross the border under strict control. Mutorwa says once such control fences are erected the continuous vaccination of animals on the Namibian side would eventually ensure eradication of the disease. According to Mutorwa an agreement on cross-border disease control was signed with Angola in 2012 and a legal framework is in place.
“Namibia does not have time to postpone this issue, however proper consultation with the relevant authorities, governors, traditional authorities and farmers’ unions will be indispensible.” The minister says given the lack of fences in the north-central areas to control the movement of cattle, the ministry has erected temporary roadblocks along main roads to check animal movement. Roadblocks will be manned by ministry officials assisted by the police.

Urgent intervention
The most urgent intervention is the vaccination of all 1.2 million cattle within the containment area. Three rounds of vaccination will be needed.
The first will start immediately, the second round within the next 30 days and the third round within a year thereafter. The minister warned those assigned to control the disease that they will be held accountable. “If you are given a responsibility and you are negligent and this gets worse and affects the economy of the country, you can be charged criminally. Charges will be pursued against you.”

National emergency response
He said it is a national emergency response that requires active involvement from all stakeholders.
“We need maximum support from farmers and traditional authorities. Everybody must assist so that we can contain this disease. If there is an emergency we need maximum response.” The ministry further announced yesterday that it lifted a quarantine imposed on the Linyanti, Sabelo, Kikiya, Muketela and Kapani areas of the Zambezi Region following an FMD outbreak in December last year.

Communal farmers
to herd cattle
Deputy Veterinary Officer for Animal Control, Dr John Shoopala, told Namibian Sun that communal farmers in contaminated areas are advised to herd their cattle.
“Farmers must avoid their animals going astray. During this drought period, we can of course not tell farmers to lock up their animals due to food shortage, so what we encourage them to do is herd their cattle at all times,” said Shoopala, adding that although the source of the FMD outbreak is not yet known, the drought definitely contributed to the spread of the disease. “Farmers are moving their cattle as there is no food and in doing so, the disease spreads,” he says. Dr Kenneth Shoombe, chief veterinarian of the country’s north western region, told communal farmers from the Mangetti Farmer’s Association (MFA) during a meeting this past weekend that the outbreak can potentially cause huge losses in productivity, especially regarding dairy cattle and pigs.

Movement suspended
The movement of animals across the Namibia-Angola international border is suspended and all issued movement permits are cancelled until further notice. With the wedding season coming up in the North, there were also concerns expressed by some farmers that the outbreak will affect festivities.
“Animals can move, but only after the correct procedures are followed. The animal will first have to be vaccinated and only after a few days can it be checked that the animal is healthy. After such a verification process can a person move the animal,” said Shoopala.
 

OLUNO/WINDHOEK ELLANIE SMIT & MERJA IILEKA

Namibian Sun