Buffalo population at Waterberg concerns farmers

15 May 2018 20:50pm
OKAKARARA, 15 MAY (NAMPA) – A continuous increase of buffaloes inside the Waterberg Plateau Park in the Otjozondjupa Region has sparked uproar among farmers in the Okakarara Constituency.
A group of communal farmers and Otjozondjupa Regional Governor, Otto Ipinge on Monday conducted a fact-finding mission inside the park and discovered a buffalo population of over 1 600.
The park has a variety of wild animals and buffaloes are limited to 400.
However, buffaloes in the park have multiplied to more than 1 600, allegedly since there is no culling strategy in place, resulting in some escaping the park to the communal areas through weak wire fences.
Veterinarian in the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, Dr Johannes Shoopala, in a meeting at Okakarara with the group later on Monday, said it is this same African buffalo which is generally the carrier and source of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD).
“Therefore, for some commercial reasons of our beef industry, buffaloes are prohibited to roam and mix with livestock in any part of the protected areas of the country,” he said.
Shoopala said that once a buffalo is spotted in a protected area, it is immediately destroyed with samples taken for FMD tests, followed by a ban on the sale or movement of livestock and their products.
According to Okakarara farmers, a ban affects them negatively as their livelihood and that of their children attending school, entirely depend on selling livestock.
The meeting was attended by a total of 34 communal farmers from Okakarara, Okondjatu and Okamatapati, together with members of the Otjozondjupa Farmers Union to discuss matters related to FMD with officials of the ministries of agriculture and environment and tourism.
The meeting suggested a total reduction of buffaloes in the park to approximately 250 or at most 400 in a quest to control the FMD outbreak in the constituency.
In March and April this year, the Directorate of Veterinary Services (DVS) in the agriculture ministry imposed two bans on the movement of livestock and their products in and outside the Okakarara Constituency.
A ban on livestock movement and sale since April this year is still active in the Okakarara Constituency until further notice.
Chairperson of the Otjozondjupa Farmers Union, Ramana Mutjavikua claimed the buffaloes that caused these two bans and other bans dating back to 2011, had escaped from the Waterberg Plateau Park.
“Now, what we want is a reduction in the number of these buffaloes; ear-tag them; and also double the wire fence powered with electricity for us to have a permanent solution,” he said.
Mutjavikua also requested the Ministry of Environment and Tourism and the DVS to allow community members to repair and conduct maintenance on the portion of the weak quarantine fence.
Godfriedine Muniazo said it disturbs her to see herds of buffaloes from the park grazing alongside a resettlement farm allocated to her, due to a weak wire fence officials of the DVS had recently worked on.
Manfred Tjikurame suggested that some buffaloes be sold for Government to generate money and acquire a helicopter it can use to patrol and trace buffaloes that escape the park.
The meeting concluded with a resolution that Ipinge arrange a meeting with the ministers of agriculture and environment and tourism to discuss these issues affecting the farmers.