From Elita Chikwati in Gokwe
Government has provided a game fence worth nearly $1 million for the Chirisa Safari Area in Gokwe, as the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development engages the local community to come up with solutions to the spread of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD).
The fence covers 50 kilometres that were vandalised for different purposes including snaring, roofing material and scrap metal.
The fence, which formed the barrier between Gokwe South and the game park, was destroyed. Gokwe is an FMD high risk area and the spread of the disease has been attributed to a number of reasons, including the straying of cattle into the Chirisa Safari Game Park and uncontrolled movement of livestock that mix with game, particularly buffalo.
Addressing farmers at Masuka Primary School in Gokwe on Tuesday, Department of Veterinary Services director Dr Josphat Nyika said FMD was an economic disease that should be controlled and eradicated.
He said the disease could result in the country losing out on millions of dollars worth of export opportunities.
Dr Nyika said FMD did not only affect beef exports, but all other agricultural products like cotton and flowers through contaminated packaging and handling equipment.
The veterinary department had to meet with farmers and other stakeholders in the livestock industry to discuss the problem and reduce the continuous spread of FMD in the area. Dr Nyika said vandalism of game fences, unrestricted movement of cattle, particularly when delivering agricultural produce such as cotton and maize, were some of the reasons for the spread of the disease.
“FMD is a specified disease,” he said. “We should work together as stakeholders to come up with solutions to the challenge. We have engaged the community, including farmers, police, local leadership, Parks and Wildlife Authority, veterinary officers and others to discuss on how we can work together to reduce the spread of FMD in Gokwe.
“Farmers are keen to participate in these disease control measures. Some had been reluctant to effectively participate in disease control through inspections, dipping and vaccinations.
Dr Nyika urged people in Gokwe not to vandalise the fences, but to take ownership of the infrastructure as it was serving them.
Farmers in Gokwe complained that they were having challenges as the dipping facilities were no longer suitable because of poor maintenance. They also said they were moving cattle illegally because it was difficult to clear the livestock for movement as they had to fork out some money.
Superintendent Florence Marume said police did not charge for the clearance of cattle for movement from one area to another. She urged the farmers to report officers charging them for the clearance process.
Veterinary officers in Gokwe complained of mobility challenges, saying they did not have vehicles to move around the farms and sometimes relied on bicycles, while others bought own motorbikes.