Group Urges Speedy Shift of Red Line

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By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK Calls for the speedy translocation of the Veterinary Cordon Fence (VCF) are being made in order to ensure the effective management and control of livestock diseases in the Northern Communal Area (NCA). This call was made by an 18-member delegation under the leadership of the Governor of the Kunene Region Dudu Murorua after undertaking a study tour of neighbouring Botswana last month in order to find the best ways of controlling animal diseases through fencing in the country. Murorua said: “additional fencing in the northern communal areas is needed as a precautionary measure to deal with future outbreaks of animal diseases like foot-and- mouth and lung sickness. “Furthermore, this exercise would further aid in improving livestock production and marketing in such areas, focussing on improving animal health status, livestock development and rangeland management, training of extension technicians and farmers as well as the marketing and trade in meat and other animal products.” Murorua clarified that while the existing fences in the area would still remain, new ones need to be erected for efficient disease control. “The translocation of the VCF does not mean physical translocation, but to bring the animal health status north of the VCF to the same level as that of the animals south of the same VCF,” explained the governor. These developments come as a follow-up on talks held early last year between local farmers of the NCA and authorities of the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry and the Meat Board of Namibia on the longstanding marketing problems and livestock diseases associated with VCF. When it was discovered that in countries like Botswana VCFs are being used effectively to control livestock diseases, the farmers decided to undertake a learning tour of that country between February 19 and 25 this year. A representative delegation was identified from all the seven regions of Caprivi, Kavango, Ohangwena, Oshikoto, Oshana, Omusati and Kunene in the NCA, as well as Windhoek. Under the leadership of Murorua, the group comprised of seven politicians and councillors as well as six representatives of farmers’ associations, two officials from the Meat Board, one official from the Namibia National Farmers Union’s Secretariat and two officials from the Agriculture Ministry. Meanwhile, the debate over the problems facing farmers north of the red line has been prevailing for some time, especially with regard to relocating the fences in that area, as well as effective disease control. Areas north of the VCF hold 50 percent of all the cattle in the country. However, livestock farmers in that area are not allowed to freely market their animals to the south due to foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) and contagious bovine pleuro-pneumonia (CBPP) in line with export requirements of the European Union and South Africa. As a result formal marketing of their livestock remained low as compared to that of other regions in the country. For instance, from February to September 2004, 3 717 cattle were slaughtered at Oshakati abattoir and 8 891 at Katima Mulilo, while for Windhoek the figure stands at 56 649 cattle, and 54 869 for the Okahandja abattoir. That is why discussions last year between stakeholders centred on strengthening the animal health status north of the veterinary cordon fence. Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry Dr Nickey Iyambo last year also cited this as a long-term plan. “The aim is to translocate the VCF to the Namibian/Angolan borders to allow our northern communal farmers access to international markets,” said the minister in the National Assembly last year. In view of this, project manager of the VCF Task Force Asser Sheuyange says a translocation would first start in areas where vaccinations against livestock diseases have never taken place before. These include Oshikoto, Mangetti, Kavango and Northern Kunene. Fencing can be a tedious and expensive process. For example, it cost government N$1 million to renovate the fence that was vandalised between Namibia and Botswana in 1990. 1Furthermore, the cost of fencing in the NCA will not be less than N$100 000 for a 2 000-km stretch including accompanying infrastructure. It will be made up of short fences of 1,5 meters small stock-proof and game-proof double fencing of 2,6 meters. Mobilisation of the community together with other relevant stakeholders has already started countrywide and will intensify as from May, to reach the grassroots level by September this year.