Masvingo Province has been hit again by a new wave of cattle deaths that has left many farmers with empty pens.
The local farmers who spoke to Community Tolerance and Reconciliation and Development (COTRAD) expressed concern over the lack of commitment by Government’s Veterinary Services Department -towards the prevention of the persisting theileriosis, a tick-borne disease. Theileriosis which is caused by uncontrolled ticks killed hundreds of cattle in Chatsworth and other parts of Gutu last year. The disease hit many districts of Masvingo Province in January 2021. The farmers say the government’s veterinary service department, which is responsible for the provision of animal and zoonotic diseases surveillance, animal health risk management, and animal health and protection has failed its mandate.
The department is failing to frequently provide adequate dipping chemicals to dip tanks despite continuous outbreak of tick-borne diseases. During the rainy season cattle are supposed to be dipped at least once every week so as to break the cycle of ticks. “As famers we call upon the Government and the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement to ensure the supply of quality dipping chemicals, livestock dosses and vaccinations to the Veterinary Service Departments and closely monitor the distribution of these chemicals to avoid corruption and diversion of use. The dipping chemicals which are rarely supplied to our local dip tanks do not remove all ticks, therefore we doubt the quality of such chemicals.” said one farmer.
Farmers are buying their own cattle dipping equipment, chemicals and vaccination despite paying cattle tax to the government to enjoy veterinary service. Long queues are seen at Veterinary and other shops which provide livestock health education and chemicals in Masvingo town with farmers from different districts even with COVID-19 lockdown restrictions that prohibits the movement of people. Exemption letters written by other traditional leaders are not being considered by the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) at checkpoints. Therefore, some small holder and peasant farmers from rural areas are reportedly failing to access town to purchase cattle vaccinations due to lockdown restrictions.
COTRAD encourages the famers and the dip tank committees to engage the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement and Veterinary Department when having such concerns. The Veterinary Service Department is responsible for promoting bio-security, animal health and welfare for the benefit of the livestock industry through implementing risk management measures for prescribed animal diseases and pests control, and building and maintaining physical veterinary infrastructure such as dips, animal handling facilities.