Recent reports that Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) has been detected in cattle in Kareng, should not make us despair. Instead the reports should galvanise our resolve to deal, once and for all, with the disease.
Granted, communities in the Ngamiland District, which were just recovering from the last episode of FMD will need additional strength to deal with the agony associated with the latest outbreak. But the communities should not allow themselves to be deflated at this time.
All community structures, from homes to dikgotla to government offices will need greater collaboration, greater information sharing and a willingness on the part of the people to avail their animals for whatever intervention the state comes up with. It will be painful, but it is the only way that the Ngamiland District can get back its status as an FMD free-zone.
Government, on the other hand, should intensify public education about the disease, amply and avail information about its outbreak in the district. Such information dissemination may include radio jingles, newspaper adverts, use of loudspeakers, pamphlets in buses, dikgotla and other public places. Such information would necessarily inform the public about the outbreak and what farmers and other members of the community should do to help fight the disease.
While at it, Government should engage communities in districts bordering Ngamiland such as Gantsi and Chobe to find effective ways of keeping the disease from spreading to their areas. This is not a battle that we can win by merely disinfecting car tyres and shoe soles, and by guarding our district borders. Greater involvement of international partners and aid agencies is required to eliminate the recurrent scourge.
Given the frequent resurgence of FMD in Botswana, it may also be a good idea for Government to engage neighbouring countries to find better ways of managing wildlife, especially the buffalo, which is a well-known migrator, and carrier of the disease. It is necessary that SADC countries should formulate a plan for dealing with future outbreaks.
The solo fights that individual countries sporadically engage in will not win the war. It is only when we have a common agenda in dealing with the scourge that we can hope for a lasting solutions and Botswana should take the lead in bringing the issue to the table at regional forums.
Needless to say, FMD visits upon communities’ untold misery emanating from loss of income and poverty.
The regional and national economy also suffers massively and it will be necessary to help restore the economies of affected areas. Such restoration should include helping the beef sector get up on its feet quickly to help create employment for many that will lose jobs and livelihood.
“As to diseases, make a habit of two things
—to help, or at least to do no harm”.