Immigrants Are A Biosecurity Threat – Molao

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RAMOKGWEBANA: The country’s biosecurity is said to be at risk due to non-compliance of cross-border travellers who bring in plants and plant products without permits.

The assistant minister of agriculture, Fidelis Molao said this while officiating at the biosecurity border campaign held in Ramokgwebana last Thursday.

The campaign was held under the theme ‘Taking Biosecurity To Travellers’ with the objective to conduct public awareness in biosecurity.

Molao said Ramokgwebana border was relevant for the campaign because it is where most goods enter and exit the two countries.

“This is the right place for travellers to be sensitised on issues relating to controls of food safety, plant, animal pests and diseases for increased agricultural productivity and trade,” said Molao.

For years Botswana has been complaining about the illegal immigrants from Zimbabwe who cross into Botswana in high numbers through unauthorised areas for trade, with some coming to look for job opportunities.

Molao said for the campaign to realise its aim it requires trust and closer cooperation with neighbouring countries through implementation of agreed protocols and standards.

He said this is critical since pests and diseases have no borders, calling for other stakeholders such as importers to realise the importance of these requirements of import permits.

He said the ministry would continue to build capacity on all borders to facilitate easy entry of goods into the country to increase benefits of enhanced food security and trade.

He called on locals with relatives across the border to pass the information to them and educate them on the dangers of crossing the border with food without import permits.

“The mangos or maize that your relatives can illegally cross with to you, can threaten the biosecurity of the country, thus negatively impacting on the country’s food security. Government is spending a lot of money in fighting pests and diseases that could be avoided,” said Molao.

He said there is increasingly great shortage of food and in SADC in particular, there is rapid advancements in biosecurity, which have tremendous potential benefits for regional development to achieve food security.

He said there is a great deal of investment in infrastructure, technology, education and training, health, veterinary and agricultural systems.

Molao said as a result, trade on food is increasing and the exchange of equipment, technology and know-how is expanding rapidly.

“In view of these we need to increase our regional capabilities in biosafety and biosecurity to keep pace with these developments.  Such growth will require increased well-coordinated efforts, within and across national systems, incorporating the capacities and contributions of the different sectors along the food systems,” said Molao.

Commenting, assistant Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) representative in Botswana, David Tibe said his organisation has a special responsibility for food security and rural development.

He said that their main mandate is to raise levels of nutrition and standards of living, to improve agricultural productivity and to better the condition of rural populations.

Tibe said that they are being challenged by large increases in the volume of food and agricultural products being traded internationally.

He said the expanding variety of imported products, growing number of countries from which these imports originate and increased travel is also creating more pathways to spread pests, diseases and other hazards.

Tibe said the project is expected to develop a functional border communication system for Botswana.

The Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) and their Zimbabwean counterpart will conduct the campaign, funded by the FAO to the tune of $281,000.

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