Five years. That is how long farmers in the north-eastern part of KwaZulu-Natal are prohibited from moving their livestock following a government intervention to curb the spread of foot and mouth disease (FMD).
Bongiwe Sithole-Moloi, MEC for agriculture and rural development in KwaZulu-Natal, said the movement ban is for Mkhanyakude, Zululand and King Cetshwayo. She confirmed the ban during a visit to a vaccination site at Ebukhipha Deep Tank near KwaHlabisa.
Farmers in the affected areas will be subjected to random roadblocks to ensure that they, and other community members, comply with the livestock movement prohibition, said Sithole-Moloi.
This, after people in KwaHlabisa were already found to have violated the government health instruction.
“We are pleading with the farmers and cattle owners to refrain from transporting cattle for whatever occasion because this leads to the spread of the disease. We also urge people to stop moving livestock at night,” said Sithole-Moloi.
Impact on the local economy
The MEC called on law enforcement agencies to support the campaign in an effort to curb the spread of foot and mouth disease. Experts describe it as a highly contagious viral disease of livestock causing fever followed by the development of blisters in the mouth and on the feet.
Sithole-Moloi said she understood the severe impact the ban will have on the livelihoods of stock owners in KwaZulu-Natal. This was, however, a much-needed attempt to stop further breakouts which might have a disastrous impact on the agriculture sector.
Meanwhile, more than 1 600 cattle were earmarked for vaccination at Ebukhipha Deep Tank with half of them being vaccinated over the past weekend.
A livestock owner, Bongani Gina, welcomed government’s cattle vaccination drive. “We have been very worried about this disease, and the roll-out of vaccination will assist us a great deal,” he said.
Bhekisana Mbatha, chairperson of the uMkhanyakude District Livestock Association, says the vaccination drive will also “rescue the local economy”. The livestock movement ban affects the owners who depend on the proceeds of sales to survive.
Both Mbatha and Sithole-Moloi also decried increasing reports of stock theft which also hindered the control of the disease. The customary payment of lobola using livestock during marriage negotiations also spreads the disease to other areas, said the MEC.
Earlier, National Agricultural Marketing Council economist Lucius Phaleng told Food For Mzansi that foot and mouth disease outbreaks have a severe impact on the South African economy.
The positive testing of foot and mouth disease has prompted the World Organisation for Animal Heath to suspend South Africa’s FMD-free status.
“This resulted in a devastating effect on the trade of cloven hoofed animals and their products from South Africa to its trading partners. Some countries instituted official bans and trade was further disrupted as a result of the inability to certify for any exports where FMD free zone attestation is required,” said Phaleng.
The KwaZulu-Natal department of agriculture and rural development is expected to roll out its vaccination drive to other high-risk areas of foot and mouth disease.
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