FOOT and Mouth Disease (FMD) continues to be a headache for both livestock farmers and Government with a recent case of outbreak having been reported in Mashonaland Central.
Eight districts of this province have been put under quarantine which means no livestock movement into or outside the districts is permitted. Now that is a problem. FMD outbreaks have become a problem in the country with notable outbreaks in Mberengwa District in December 2014, Farms around Bulawayo in April 2015, Chipinge district in September 2015, Esigodini in June 2016 and now Mashonaland Central in 2018.
While FMD has always been endemic in Matabeleland region it is now worrisome to note its increasing prevalence in the Mashonaland provinces. This means a new strategy of controlling FMD is needed or at least enforcing the existing strategy to the dot. FMD is primarily controlled by observing very strict animal movement control regimes.
Herein lies the problem. One thing that I have observed in this country is that the strictness of the laws and regulations do not seem to apply uniformly across the country. In some areas of the country regulations seem to be relaxed a bit while in other areas they are strictly adhered to.
As an example I have been to other areas where you find a shop with a collapsing ceiling is freely trading and others with no toilets at all and I ask myself whether ministries use the same template of regulations.
In some areas, environmental health officials would not allow a shop to trade under such circumstances. I could site many other non-livestock examples but the point is that for FMD control to be effective similar measures should be exerted in applying control regulations across the country or else FMD will continue to burst here and there.
Just recently I met a farmer in Nkayi district hoofing animals to the neighbouring Gokwe district for a sale. The place is adjacent to Gokwe. This is a place which is still under quarantine for close to three years now, due to an FMD outbreak which occurred there as a result of infected animals being smuggled from Gokwe into Nkayi.
Somehow animals can be moved with no veterinary permit and police clearance and still be sold in the neighbouring district and be transported to the abattoir for slaughter.
Now this tells me the recipient district has somewhat slack rules if an animal which was not cleared in situ as is the procedure and had no movement permit is allowed into the district and even sold to be slaughtered.
This just one small incidence but clearly a driver for FMD in that particular area and other areas with similar weak enforcement of regulations. This needs to change and the standard control measures applied with equal force across the country. I think perhaps we need a command FMD control programme. FMD is a disease of economic importance, painful to the farmer and costly to the Government. This year a lot of farmers sold their heifers and breeding cows to the command livestock programme and they got good money.
However, some red zone areas could not benefit from such a programme because their animals are only for slaughter. Some of these areas could easily be clean areas if farmers and livestock traders can abide by the animal movement control regulations.
It is painful for a farmer to be unable to sell his livestock because that is his source of income and livelihood. Schools opened last week and most farmers would want to dispose a beast or two to clear the fees and if your area is now under quarantine like the eight districts of Mashonaland Central that becomes impossible.
It’s even more painful now because cattle prices are a record high and will continue to rise until December. This means the boxed farmers cannot benefit from this window of excellent prices.
It is no secret that a lot of professionals now invest in cattle because of the collapse of our banking system. Whosoever wishes to grow his/ her money now buys and keeps cattle and can easily redeem the value when need arises compared to a bank where one is not able to get his/ her money out.
Therefore it is imperative that conditions that hinder livestock trade like an FMD outbreak should be avoided at all costs. I therefore think FMD control must be put under command programmes until such a time when the disease is effectively contained.
Placing it under command management will make resources be availed like we have seen in other sister programmes and the management will be forceful and effective.