Sharon Munjenjema, Harare Bureau
WOES of livestock loss and theft may soon be a thing of the past as the country introduces an electronic system to trace animals, our Harare Bureau has learnt.
The Veterinary Services Department has begun piloting the Livestock Identification and Traceability System (LITS), a plastic chip inserted in the ear of an animal and capable of storing electronic data and linked to a server.
The system enables a user to establish the movement, ownership and health history of an animal as well as its location at any given time.
It has been successfully used regionally by South Africa, Botswana and Namibia.
In an interview last week Livestock and Veterinary Services Department Principal Director Dr Unesu Ushewokunze-Obatolu said the scheme will first be used on cattle.
“This is an animal identification system to begin with cattle. It aims to identify each animal uniquely to an owner and its location,” she said.
“It also takes account of all information about the life history of the animal in the context of the different experiences it would have gone through in its lifetime.”
Dr Ushewokunze-Obatolu said the system will make cases of livestock theft and loss quicker to solve.
She said the LITS scheme will also prevent the purchasing and consumption of diseased livestock as it will reveal all the health history.
“Many of the aspects (of LITS) are important to the safety of food derived from animals and the need to prevent and control important animal diseases which often impact on our food supplies and the health and productivity of animals in the country, the region and worldwide,” she said.
All livestock moving from one area to another will have their health history examined before entry into a new area is authorised.”
The scheme will be rolled out to farmers through private sector partnership where the Division of Veterinary Services will have full ownership of the data.
Farmers have welcomed the development saying this will make Zimbabwean livestock more marketable on regional and international markets.
In an interview, president of the Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union Mr Paul Zakariya said, “If we are to convince international and local markets of the origin of certain livestock and prove that it is without disease, then we need this technology.
“This is indeed a positive development but we want to move from mere announcements to proper implementation. Let them engage farmers in the programme. But let it not increase costs of production on the farmers’ part.”