Foot & mouth fight gets boost

The Government, in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the European Union, is working on a foot and mouth disease containment strategy which will target about 323 000 cattle in 12 of the country’s most affected districts.

This comes at a time when Government and its partners is already implementing a $1,8 million vaccination programme.

Gathered information shows that the proposed strategy recommends the limitation of vaccination to herds in permanent contact with wildlife through scheduled vaccination by the Departmemt of Veterinary Services.

It also recommends a protocol which includes three rounds of vaccination per year for 323 000 animals each time in the 12 districts that borders the Gonarezhou, Hwange and Binga national parks.

If adopted, the project will require $2 million annually and may increase the country’s chances of resuming beef exports to the European Union.

Head of the EU delegation in Zimbabwe, Ambassador Philippe Van Damme, said the strategy has been finalised and could be adapted to all other value chains seeking exports such as dairy, cattle and pigs.

“The strategy has been finalised but Government has not yet proceeded with the approval of the strategy despite a constant threat of FMD outbreaks,” said Ambassador Van Damme in written responses.

“Next month, a consultant will – in the framework of an EU-financed livestock project implemented by FAO – engage Government to hopefully iron out outstanding matters to allow for the stringent implementation of the strategy to improve control of FMD in the country.

“Since food and mouth disease is endemic in Zimbabwe, the European Union has expanded its response from the initial emergency relief (supply of vaccinations) to the development of a Foot and Mouth Disease Control Strategy in order to render emergency measures sustainable in the future.”

Ambassador Van Damme also highlighted that although vaccination is effective in controlling the foot and mouth disease, it is also expensive and requires repeated vaccination which is ineffective without the strategic approach.

Zimbabwe has been struggling to contain the foot and mouth disease since its outbreak in 2001, resulting in the country losing its European market.

Before the outbreak, Zimbabwe was one of the world’s major exporters of beef to European markets.

As a result, there has been reports of tensions between communities living on the Zimbabwe-Botswana border line as authorities from the latter are reportedly shooting stray Zimbabwean cattle.

Zimbabwe is also struggling to buy vaccines and is reported to have notified the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) that it is failing to contain the disease due to vaccine shortages.

Speaking at a recent beef industry conference, the Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development responsible for Livestock, Cde Paddy Zhanda, said Government is aiming at ensuring that Zimbabwe becomes foot and mouth free.

Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers’ Union president Mr Wonder Chabikwa hailed the Government’s efforts, which he said were bearing fruits.

He said some of the farmers should take the blame as they are not supporting Government’s containment protocols.

“Government had managed to contain the outbreak. However, we have observed that farmers are partly to blame for the outbreaks in most instances,” he said.

“Farmers tend to move their livestock to other areas once they realise an outbreak in their area. In most instances, it would be too late as their livestock would already have be infected and this means that where they are going, they will infect other animals.

In an effort to protect its cattle, the Botswana government is said to have donated 473 200 doses of vaccine for foot-and-mouth disease to help Zimbabwe contain a recent outbreak in the border line areas.

Botswana supplies beef to the European market and is reportedly concerned that outbreaks in Zimbabwe could affect its market.

According to agricultural researcher, Ian Scoones, the foot and mouth disease is endemic in Southern Africa due to numerous wildlife game reserves.

“Across Southern Africa, cattle and sometimes game-proof fences have been erected to restrict the movement of cloven-hoofed animals.

“This is perhaps most dramatically illustrated by the Namibian Veterinary Cordon Fence (VCF, the ‘red line’) which runs the width of the country, separating it into FMD and contagious bovine pleuropneumonia (CBPP)-free and control zones. Only areas south of the VCF are able to access international markets for beef.”

After almost 20 years of failing to effectively control the disease, it remains to be seen if Zimbabwe will be able to bounce back of the international beef market.

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