If the Ministry of Agriculture was listening to advice Ngamiland should by now be Foot and Mouth (FMD) free.
Former Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) Executive Chairman Dr. Martin Mannathoko has cast doubts on the strategies being used by the Department of Veterinary Services (DVS) to fight the disease, which’s first outbreak was reported in 2008.
Before his appointment as BMC chief, Mannathoko worked at the Ministry of Agriculture as Director of DVS before being promoted to be Permanent Secretary.
“Botswana was known as a leader in the control of Foot and Mouth. We influenced a lot of decisions,” he said. Sadly according to him this is no longer the case.
He noted that currently the country is faced with dealing with the longest FMD outbreak in the history of the disease. This is the fifth year since the disease was first detected near Habu in the Ngamiland.
The outbreak has brought socio-economic damage to the many farmers who can no longer sell to the BMC. Many are unemployed and relied on cattle for their daily lives.
But according to Mannathoko government has the potential to end the misery of the Ngamiland people by successfully fight the disease. He sits in the Ministry of Agriculture High Level Consultative Council (HLCC) and according to him they have persistently proposed that Ngamiland should be divided into zones in order to fight the disease successfully.
“If you divide into compartments it will be cheaper to get rid of the disease. The Maun abattoir can even qualify for the European Market,” he said. Mannathoko revealed that they have made the proposal over and over only to be told recently that because of the recession it will not be possible to divide the area. “But we argue that it will cost less than what we are doing now.”
The former BMC boss also called for the independence of the DVS from the Ministry of Agriculture. He opined the currently there is a lot of interference and the DVS cannot fully discharge his mandate. “The Director should be given full responsibility and be accountable.”
Mannathoko was giving evidence before the Special Select Committee of Parliament conducting an inquiry into the BMC and the decline of the country’s beef industry.