The Minister of Agriculture, Christiaan de Graaff, has called for public support and cooperation in government interventions geared at containing the impact of contagious animal diseases like Foot and Mouth (FMD), infamous for posing a threat to the livestock industry and hampering socio-economic development.
Though he assured the nation yesterday that his ministry is working hard to contain the two contagious animal diseases, Rift Valley Fever (RVF) and mange, and also to ensure that the FMD outbreak in the Plumtree sub district of Zimbabwe does not spill over to Botswana, he reiterated that its prevention can only be realised when farmers and the general public join hands with government to achieve the desired impact.
Of the major setbacks that his ministry faces, he cited farmer apathy, which usually breeds poor vaccination coverage in some areas. Outbreaks of FMD in southern Zimbabwe have a history of spilling over into Botswana. De Graaff said his ministry has since embarked on intensive boarder surveillance, movement restrictions, banning of importation of cloven hoofed animals and their products from Zimbabwe, blockade and boarder patrol and public education together with intensive maintenance of the cordon fence along the border.
He said the fence is in good shape to prevent Zimbabwe cattle from crossing over and the other way around.
He further said the maintenance crew is working around the clock to mend any situation when the need arises.As part of its public education mission, the ministry has so far addressed council and Kgotla meetings to sensitise and solicit support from communities in preventing the spread of the disease into the country.
"Flooding of the Okavango Delta also makes maintenance of the buffalo fence difficult," he said.
Commenting on the first ever RVF outbreak confirmed on June 23, 2010 at Seribe Crush, near Ramotswa, he said preventative measures have been put in place to minimise its impact as the disease is characterised by abortion at all stages of pregnancy and high mortality in young animals.
As the viral disease can be passed onto humans through handling or consumption of contaminated material such as meat, milk, body fluids and sick animals, De Graff cautioned farmers and the general public to avoid handling or consuming any contaminated material. Finally, he said government has completed mange treatment in small stock in the Kgalagadi District on July 2. Currently, the Agriculture Ministry is conducting a mopping up exercise at risk surrounding districts of Southern, Kweneng and Gantsi to be completed at the end of July.