A small group of Ngamiland cattle farmers has submitted a petition to the Minister of Agriculture Christiaan De Graaff.
Led by Simon Phuthego, 37, who boasts over 250 cattle at some cattle post near Boro, the farmers organised a 100-kilometres walk, which started in Sehithwa last week Wednesday and ended in Maun on Friday afternoon. Phuthego was alone at the start of the walk but was later joined by Jacob Mohapha, John Phaladi and Alex Thuki in Toteng the following day while Motlhokomedi Segadimo, Mogami Selawe and Semagamaga Morula joined the awareness campaign in Komana on Friday. In their petition, campaigners accuse De Graaff of failing to eradicate Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD). They complain that despite government intervention in 2007, the recurring outbreak continues to rob Ngamiland farmers of their livelihood.
The community now suspects that there is an agenda to smother the beef industry in the district and turn the area into an exclusive tourism destination. The region has well over 460 000 beasts and the hands of commercial and subsistence farmers form the economic backbone of the community. As a result, the economy of the district has plummeted and the first victims are the farmers whose source of livelihood rests exclusively on cattle farming.
“Needless to say, this situation has brought untold financial hardship and suffering on the community,” read the petition in part. The Botswana Meat commission (BMC) is currently buying cattle in the area after securing a market in Zimbabwe but farmers remain concerned with the arrangement. They say the BMC’s quota system limits the number of cattle to be sold at a time, which means the period it takes to finally sell at the BMC is too long. Small-scale farmers have also alleged that only large-scale farmers are favoured.
Apart from proposing that the current intervention measures by the ministry to control FMD be revised, the petitioners want the ministry to engage the National Development Bank (NDB) about the loans owed by farmers to the bank. The cattle were used as sureties for the loans they took before the FMD outbreak in 2007 and they propose that such loans be written off.
They claim to have been driven to extreme poverty and despair, as they do not have the means to service the loans. However, the petition by this small group of farmers appears not to represent views and opinions of the North West Farmers Association (NWFA). In an interview, NWFA chairperson Simon Bojosi said the association was not involved but did not show any signs of unhappiness.
He was part of those who witnessed Phuthego and his crew arriving in Maun on Friday.