FARMERS in Mwenezi and Beitbridge districts have resorted to primitive methods to fight a ravaging foot and mouth disease (FMD) outbreak in the absence of modern vaccines.
BY OWN CORRESPONDENT
This comes amid reports that the Botswana government recently donated 473 200 doses of vaccine for the foot and mouth disease (FMD) to help Zimbabwe contain the disease outbreak and ensure that the infectious disease does not spread into the neighbouring country, which is the region’s prime beef producer.
Mwenezi district veterinary officer, Thokozani Mswela confirmed the recent outbreak on Friday.
“We fully know about it, it’s there,” he said without further details .
Mwenezi district administrator, Rose Chingwe said there was a lockdown in her district and no domestic animal movement is allowed.
“Cattle and other livestock in general have been quarantined, animals are not allowed to move because of this disease,” she said.
“That is what shows us it is real,” Chingwe, whose role apart from chairing the district development committee, coordinates all government departments and other development and adminstrative agencies like councils, said.
“I understand livestock is not allowed to go to different wards or villages other than their own, but I wouldn’t have statistics.
“In Beitbridge, reports said the area on the north-western parts close to Maranda had been badly hit. Farmers in Jopembe Lot 12 of Beitbridge reported an outbreak but veterinary officials at Beitbridge refused to comment over the issue. I am not allowed to speak to the press,” veterinary officer, Mike Nare, said.
Some farmers, however, said the greater part of Beitbridge, like Mwenezi, is under quarantine.
In the absence of proper vaccines, farmers are using fertilisers and other natural herbs to treat their animals, mostly cattle that have been badly affected.
“We wash the wounds with fertilisers, salt and some traditional herbs. There are no veterinary medicines and we have to save our cattle so we try anything,” Lifios Murove from Maranda said.
“We try to soothe the pain so that the beast can eat and drink,” Murove from Chiwarure village said.
Foot-and-mouth disease or hoof-and-mouth disease (Aphthae epizooticae) is an infectious and sometimes fatal viral disease that affects cloven-hoofed animals both domestic and wild.
The virus causes a high fever for between two and six days, followed by blisters inside the mouth and on the feet that may rupture and cause lameness.
Animals affected in the mouth find it difficult to water or feed.
Murove said the disease was widespread, with several reports from the Manyuchi, Maranda and Dinhe areas in his neighbourhood.
“Government extension officers have been advising us to do anything within our means. They have not brought any drugs or intervention medicines,” he said.
Farmers feel that livestock farming is not receiving adequate attention from the government.
“It’s not like the attention given to small scale miners, tobacco farmers, command maize cropping, you name it, is far different from what livestock farming is getting,” a Beitbridge farmer, who preferred anonymity, said.
“We sell cattle to raise fees, I was sent to school from money raised after my parents sold cattle and this applies to those in authority but they seem to forget.
“Anyone sensible should prioritise livestock farming because it is what every household can do whether in dry or wet areas. Our leaders do not need to be told our economy can be stronger agro-based.”
Livestock farming deteriorated after the land distribution programme largely believed to have been a noble idea by government that was badly implemented.
Prior to that exercise in 2000, Zimbabwe supplied beef to the EU and animal movement was under strict scrutiny. Beef exports to the EU were stopped in 2001 after an FMD outbreak and since then Zimbabwe has been fighting a losing battle against the disease.