Africa-Press – Botswana. The livestock industry continues to face a perilous future due to the threat of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) from neighbouring countries.

Minister of Agriculture, Mr Fidelis Molao said this when presenting his ministry’s budget proposal before the committee of supply on Tuesday.

He said FMD in South Africa, which affects nine provinces, including the North West Province which shares a border with Botswana, was a serious threat to the country.

He noted that the disease threatened five FMD free zones in the country and 15 administrative districts with over half of the country’s livestock population.

He added that his ministry considered the South Africa FMD threat to be an emergency because an outbreak affecting such a large number of livestock would devastate livelihoods and the economy as well as being extremely expensive to control.

He, therefore, said his ministry had requested government to approve a responsive plan to tackle the threat.

He said most of the proposed budget would go towards the construction of fences to prevent the mixing of livestock from the two countries.

He said P15 million was available to open a patrol route and to erect barriers along the border, adding that the project commenced in December 2023 and was anticipated to be completed in June 2024.

The minister noted that as at January 2024, about 55 kilometres out of the targeted 184 kilometres of the patrol fence route had been cleared and construction had commenced.

He further noted that the maintenance of the cordon fence continued in Selebi Phikwe, Maun, Shakawe, Ghanzi and Francistown, adding that for the 2023/24 financial year, the ministry covered 709 kilometres against the target of 1 530 kilometres.

He said some of the challenges they faced included being unable to keep up with the fence destruction due to elephants, vandalism and heat waves which disturbed progression and maintenance, noting that contagious diseases could easily spread from one zone to another.

The minister also stated that there had been an unprecedented incursion of over 200 buffaloes into the FMD free zones in 2023 which necessitated movement restrictions in the affected zones.

He said all the buffaloes had been relocation to the Chobe National Park and that those that could not be capture were killed.

He added that an inspection was done and that no signs of the disease was detected.

Furthermore, the minister said the August 2022 outbreak of FMD in zone 6b had been successfully controlled by slaughtering all cattle in the zone.

He added that the depopulation exercise ended in November last year with the removal of over 10 000 cattle from the area and that cash payments were made to 1 148 farmers as compensation for 2 851 cattle.

He noted that over 7 000 cattle were sent to Maun BMC abattoir for slaughter while 880 calves were auctioned for rearing in the Chobe District.

Post depopulation, Mr Molao said surveillance in the remaining small stock had not shown any FMD virus infection.

He also said a dossier for the reinstatement of the FMD free status of 6b zone would be submitted to the World Organisation for Animal Health in March 2024 after a mandatory three months stay period and would be followed by the restocking of over 7 000 cattle.

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