Zim urged to exploit regional opportunities


THE constant outbreak of foot and mouth disease (FMD) dampens prospects for trade in meat and meat products as it places limitations on the level of competitiveness due to noncompliance with trade conditions.

Agriculture experts say the disease has over the years prevented Zimbabwe from full participation in formal trade at regional and international levels.

Therefore, effective management of FMD becomes essential if the country is to fully exploit the potential trade opportunities that exist with improved livestock production and health.
Speaking at the official opening of a multi-stakeholder workshop for the development of a national FMD control strategy for Zimbabwe, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (Fao) representative for programmes, David Mfote, said it was one of the organisation’s strategic objectives to increase the resilience of livelihoods to threats of crises.

“This objective aims to improve the capacities of national authorities and stakeholders for emergency preparedness and to reduce the impact of such crisis, ensuring that uptake of standards, guidelines and practices for hazard and sector specific emergency preparedness is strengthened,” he said.
This comes as Zimbabwe is seeking to develop a comprehensive and inclusive national FMD control strategy with the full participation of all livestock value chain actors.

FMD, a highly contagious but treatable trans boundary animal disease has recently spread into six of Zimbabwe’s eight geographical provinces.

This is despite government efforts to control the disease outbreaks through enforcement of strict livestock movement and mass livestock vaccination campaigns.

The situation is exacerbated by the prevailing El Niño-induced drought severely affecting the southern and western parts of the country.

The current drought has forced communal farmers to move their livestock in search of grazing and water sources, unfortunately to areas adjacent to national parks, thereby increasing buffalo and cattle contact thus aggregating the potential for spread of the disease.

Experts say there is a significant risk of FMD incursion into traditionally disease “free zones” and neighbouring countries, particularly Botswana and South Africa.

This current scenario presents diverse negative economic consequences. The productivity of livestock and the livelihood of farmers in affected areas have been severely depreciated.
Trade at regional and international levels is barred due to noncompliance to trade conditions.

The European Union (EU) representative, Thomas Opperer, said “FMD can erode the viability of livestock production which contributes to the agricultural gross domestic product, and it continued to spread further. As such, the EU representative said, new ways of containing FMD were needed,” he said.

“It is becoming increasingly evident that the vaccination campaigns are not sufficient to contain outbreaks — new ways need to be found to contain the disease.

“That’s why the EU, together with the of Agriculture ministry and Fao launched the National FMD Control Strategy formulation process at a multi-stakeholder workshop this week,” Opperer added.

Ministry of Agriculture principal director of Livestock and Veterinary Services, Unesu Ushewokunze-Obatolu, said the success of any animal disease control programme depend on the level of its economic soundness and participation of stakeholders, and the ministry expected the strategy to be pragmatic, based on current realities and balanced with other policy priorities.

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