Irate Ngamiland farmers demand agriculture coordinator

MAUN: Ngamiland farmers vow they will not rest until they are assured that the position of the District Agriculture Coordinator (DAC) is filled – permanently.

What gets their goat, it appears, is that officials are deployed temporarily and leave before familiarizing themselves with what is obtaining on the ground.

The unavailability of the DAC, so says the interim chairman of Haina Veldt Farmers Association Keloitsang Ledimo, is a big problem if not a blunder by government.

The disaster-prone district, has been labeled a red zone as a result of the re-occurrence of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) and other cattle diseases which have for years denied farmers in the district the opportunity to sell their cattle independently as and when they so wish as enjoyed by other farmers elsewhere in the country.

Because of the same reason, Ledimo noted that there is never any continuity or progress when it comes to addressing grievances. The DAC is supposed to be the link between themselves and government. He said their hope has always been that the three ministries of Agriculture, Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism as well as Investment, Trade and Industry should work as a unit for a common cause, especially on issues affecting Ngamiland since all of them have fingers pointing at them.

He expressed disappointment about delays made the by the Department of Wildlife and National Parks, which he says takes time in compensating farmers whose fields are destroyed by wild animals.

Such farmers always have to wait a long time for them to be able to prepare for the next ploughing season since they also have to wait for assessments to be carried out.

The other worry, he said, is that some problem animals are not included for compensation even though they are the most destructive. He suggested therefore that the department should as a matter of fact look on this very issue and reconsider because as it stands now some people are so demoralized that they have even relocated to villages without any produce from their fields. Ministry of trade should help facilitate markets for them and advise on where to market.

At a recent meeting with the Assistant Minister of Agriculture Beauty Manake, farmers took turns to throw salvos at the government. Tey feel their pleas, recommendations and or suggestions are never considered even though they are the very people who are suffering and feeling the heat, especially now that most of them are grounded at home with no income since the emergence of Covid-19.

They claimed that they have through the many forums where they were either invited or hosted previous ministers of the same ministry been advised to form a joint association so that their grievances may be heard better. This is despite the fact that they had all along been operating within their respective associations, amongst them the HainaVeldt Farmers Association, Ngamiland Agricultural Management Association (NAMA), and the North West Integrated Farmer’s Association (NWIFA) which they always believed carried one voice and could still be heard and convince government to do better.

Joint Farmers Association chairman Frank Mafela decried that a lot of their cattle have died while transiting to Makalamabedi quarantine camp.

“Cattle are driven long distances on bad terrain. Some die along the way or upon arrival. It is the responsibility of cattle owners to ensure that they are properly fed and taken care of, but because of bad handling on the trucks some even loose the required weight. This is quite a drawback for most farmers as they end up losing lots of money. Our wish is for government to step in and see to it that things are done differently. We have long suggested that we be allowed to introduce feedlots where we can keep cattle before travel, but all our suggestions are never taken seriously”.

Mafela stated that in 2018 a group of monied Angolan farmers came to Maun to request for live cattle purchase, an opportunity which could have allowed them to directly sell to outside markets. However, he said this could not materialize as they had to wait for responses from government as well as procedures which they believe might have played a role in the Angolans wanting out.

He advised that government should take leaf from the mushrooming abattoirs in the district which have long started selling their produce to countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Albania and South Africa.

It is the same abattoirs which he said are preferred by local farmers to sell their cattle because although the prices might be low in some instances, they meet deadlines of making payments as compared to Maun BMC. “We still believe Maun BMC is a good entity and it is our wish to see it resuscitate.”

But they have not been transparent with a number of things which we believe will sour relations if not addressed the right way. We know their decisions are routed through government, but the time has come for them to accelerate pace because their blunders affect us. They want to buy our cattle for a song, and because we are a desperate lot, we end up giving in even though the processing of payments takes ages. We pray that the ministry of Trade should also assist us by facilitating international markets”.

Manake requested to be given time to look at their concerns and admitted knowledge of the fact that some issues are area specific and therefore need special dispensation.

She said out of all the districts, Ngamiland has the highest number of cattle which calls for special care so that the region may graduate from being a red zone to a green zone so that movement restriction of cattle to other areas can be lifted.

In the meantime, she advised farmers to help contain FMD by taking their cattle for vaccination whenever required to do so by the Department of Veterinary Services (DVS). She also called for routine maintenance of the buffalo fence so that FMD does not spread to green zones.

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