By Ntombi Mhlongo
Limited funding to rehabilitate cordon fences along borders poses a threat to the country’s efforts to work together with South Africa to contain the spread of foot and mouth disease (FMD). This is one of the challenges related by the Ministry of Agriculture to the Eswatini Financial Times. As a means of playing its part in containing the spread of the disease in the country, the Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini, through the Ministry of Agriculture facilitates the deployment of cordon guards who conduct patrols along the border posts and ensure that animals do not cross either way across the boundaries.
For this task to be effectively executed, the cordon fences along the borders must be constantly maintained and or rehabilitated.
The government also ensures that there are proper inspections and monitoring of incoming livestock products at the border gates.
Neighbouring SA has now and again intensified its efforts to contain the spread of FMD such that this week, Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Thoko Didiza, MP announced a decision to suspend all movement of cattle in the whole country.
It has been reported that SA is currently experiencing 116 outbreaks of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD), involving farms, feedlots and communal areas in KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, North West, Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Free State Provinces.
Reports are to the effect that the disease continues to spread, with 15 new properties and two new provinces affected in the last two weeks alone.
Senior Veterinary Officer Dr Patrick Mduduzi Dlamini told the Eswatini Financial Times that while Eswatini engaged in constant communication with SA regarding the FMD situation, there were challenges including the lack of funding to rehabilitate the cordon fence at the borderlines.
Another challenge, Dlamini said, is a high rate of cross-border theft and return of animal livestock without due legal procedure.
“The ministry requests understanding and cooperation from the farmers and the public on these matters of FMD prevention to ensure that Eswatini remains free from the disease. The ministry continually reviews the risks and has ongoing discussions with the country’s neighbours about acceptable ways to resume safe trade,” he said.
He reiterated that currently, only processed (low-risk) products can be allowed from SA.
Dlamini highlighted that Eswatini is continually at a certain level of risk whenever there are disease outbreaks in neighbouring countries.
He said as a country free from FMD, there are legislations and procedures implemented by the country to reduce the introduction of the disease from across the border.
Some of the strategies introduced include strengthening vigilance and surveillance in dip tanks, especially along the borders plus creating awareness of people residing next to the dip tanks and in communities along borderlines.
Another strategy is that of preventing and or avoiding as much as possible animals crossing the borders.
In the event that animals are to be returned, those responsible are expected to report to the Veterinary Services Department and the Royal Eswatini Police Service (REPS) for possible legal return of animals via a quarantine station.