Friday, January 22, will be one of the most memorable days of the new year for the owners of some two million cattle in the areas north of the Veterinary Cordon Fence when the Northern Communal Areas (NCAs) are declared free of Foot and Mouth Disease.
New Era has it on good authority that the NCAs will officially be declared FMD-free by the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry this week. The announcement will be made at a media briefing on Friday, six months after the last case of the dreaded disease was reported in July last year.
The first outbreak in some 30 years occurred in May last year and had the livestock industry reeling. Apart from wide-ranging efforts of both government and the private sector to combat FMD, Cabinet availed more than N$52 million in August last year for the planned operations and erection of a fence between Namibia and Angola that will hopefully bring a permanent solution to the problem of unrestricted livestock movement between the two countries.
No new cases of FMD were reported after a massive effort by all role players in the livestock industry brought to a halt the disease. In accordance with international animal health regulations of the United Nations, the NCAs can be now declared FMD-free on January 22.
The long-awaited news will bring some relief to long-suffering NCA farmers, who have had all livestock export doors closed on them after the outbreak of FMD last year.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF) will announce the end of the epidemic on Friday at a media briefing, New Era was informed yesterday.
A quick survey amongst livestock farmers in the NCAs yesterday revealed that the new FMD-free status means the world to them.
They all expressed relief, saying last year’s outbreak caused them immense marketing problems on top of the drought, as Meatco’s abattoirs had to be shut down because of the outbreak.
Farmers this reporter spoke to, all described the awarding of FMD-free status as the beginning of a new era for them, expressing hope that the status will eventually open doors again to international markets.
Meatco made history in 2012 when it started exporting meat from the NCAs to Woolworth outlets in South Africa, something that will again be possible after the NCAs are declared FMD-free tomorrow.
It took strict animal and product movement restrictions, 44 roadblocks manned by over 300 personnel, five patrol teams around infected areas, the vaccination of some 1,2 million cattle, decontamination and the patrolling and repair of the Veterinary Cordon Fence to halt the disease.
For surveillance, 21 teams were set up in all regions of the NCAs and weekly farm inspections were done in former surveillance areas, as well as daily reporting on the disease monitored.
Cattle were initially vaccinated twice (30 days apart) and thereafter had to be vaccinated every four to six months until the disease was eradicated.
Government allocated over N$109 million to cover the operational costs for delivering 1,1 million doses of vaccine, provided 148 vehicles, equipment worth N$11 million, and repaired the international border fence and employed 631 temporary employees and 320 permanent staff to assist in the campaign.
Angola assisted with vaccine and diagnostics after a meeting with representatives of the Angolan government on June 19, 2015 at Ondangwa.