Low-risk FMD areas the focus

Resources must be diverted from border fence

03 September 2019 | Agriculture

Resources from the fencing of the Namibian-Angolan border in an effort to eliminate foot-and mouth disease (FMD) in the northern communal areas (NCAs) should be reallocated to extend the FMD-free zone northwards to fence off low-risk blocks.

This is one of the considerations contained in the Analysis of the Livestock Market Policy which was released last week at the launch of the Northern Communal Area Livestock Sector Transformation Strategy.

According to the policy report the option should be considered even though the ultimate objective is to enable the entire NCA, except the Zambezi Region which hosts free-roaming buffalos that carry the FMD virus, to become a FMD and contagious bovine pleuropneumonia (CBPP) free zone.

“Government's ongoing attempts to find what is perceived by some to be a silver bullet for the NCA livestock industry problem by extending the FMD-free zone into the NCA, be it to the Angolan border and the Shamangorwa veterinary cordon fence in Kavango East Region, or to low-risk blocks within the NCA separated by internal VCFs, seem to be floundering,” the report states.

The study says while the official position is to continue to pursue the former option, support for the latter option is gaining traction. This is due to resistance from some border communities whose cattle depend on grazing in Angola, and to doubts over the capacity to maintain biosecurity along parts of the border to prevent FMD crossing from eastern Angola.

The report points out that budgetary allocations to both options remain insignificant in this time of government austerity. It says feasibility studies should therefore be undertaken to define low-risk blocks, including the entire Kunene North Region and parts of the Omusati Region, the Mangetti West areas in eastern Oshikoto and possibly continuing into Ohangwena and southern Kavango West and Kavango East, including the leased small-scale farms.

“Strong local support for including the northern part of the Kunene Region, and southern Kavango East and Kavango West Regions, in particular in the FMD-free zone, should ensure success.”

Furthermore it says that feasibility studies should analyse the economic and financial cost-benefit of establishing and maintaining such blocks, and environmental and social impact assessments should be undertaken.

“However, fences divide people and communities and are therefore, socio-political more than veterinary issues.”

To inform decisions on which of the different veterinary cordon fence and FMD risk management options to pursue, the study recommends that the national political leadership and organised agriculture, with the support of the Directorate of Veterinary Services, should take ownership of the issue and conduct consultations, communicate the long-term benefits and costs, and gauge community support and resistance to the different options.

“At the same time the government should focus on developing domestic and international markets for NCA meat produced in the Protection Zone and the Infected Zone through commodity-based trade approaches in line with the requirements of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) for importation of meat from FMD infected countries or zones where an official control programme exists.”

Meanwhile, the responsibility for managing FMD outbreaks should be broadened and be undertaken by a panel of DVS experts that would base its decision on scientific risk assessment.

The report adds that while the NCA Protection Zone remains in place consideration should be given to ensuring that the NCA west of the Shamangorwa fence in Mukwe constituency does not remain as one single zone which leads to movement or market restrictions being imposed in Kunene when there is an FMD outbreak in the easternmost parts of the protection zone in the Kavango East Region.

“A fence previously located between Kavango West and Oshikoto and Ohangwena could be rehabilitated and operationalised to become veterinary cordon fences if needed.”

The study also recommends that budget allocations for FMD prevention measures, including vaccination campaigns, should be ring-fenced. Alternatively, an FMD contingency account which was previously held by the finance ministry specifically for FMD outbreaks, but was abolished before the 2015 outbreak, should be revived to cover both outbreak control and prevention emergencies.

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ELLANIE SMIT