Foot & Mouth needs effective strategies

We report elsewhere in this edition that there has been a Foot and Mouth outbreak in Masvingo province, particularly in Mwenezi and Chiredzi districts, that claimed 500 cattle in a space of two months.

Paul Bogaert
Paul Bogaert

There has been no major incidence of this dreaded disease for a long time, giving hope that livestock experts had managed to bring it under control. This resurgence highlights the need for a rethink.

There is fear within the veterinary and agricultural extension services departments that the outbreak may spread to other districts because of an acute shortage of drugs and other resources. Consequently, the government and other concerned stakeholders must urgently consider how best to mobilise the resources.

If it needs having to transfer funds from other less crucial government commitments, so be it. We also pray that the humanitarian community will chip with whatever help they can give, be it financial or technical.

The Masvingo outbreak provides a lesson which the government should have learnt in earlier times when FMD wreaked havoc on our herds. There is need for alertness and preparedness against the eventuality of disease outbreaks, just as it is important to boost disaster preparedness in other areas.

We would have expected livestock researchers to monitor the national herd more thoroughly. Granted, FMD spreads fast, but we fail to understand how they were caught napping so badly in Masvingo. The disease could indeed be present in other areas – but undetected yet.

We urge Arex officers to always be on their toes, visiting their respective areas and interacting with the farmers to maximise early detection of the disease. Similarly, they need to step-up education and awareness campaigns among farmers.

The beef industry, struggling as it is after long years of depletion of the national herd, remains a critical area of the economy. Simple calculations will show that the Masvingo FMD outbreak has resulted in a loss of at least $250,000 – if we peg the value at auction of a single beast at $500. To communal and small-scale farmers currently battling for inputs to prepare for the coming season – this is a fortune.

We wish for the old days when we could export beef to lucrative markets such as the EU bloc, but the first step towards that is an effective strategy to combat FMD now.

Post published in: Editor: Wilf Mbanga

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