Maun — Ngamiland farmers have urged Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security to re-visit Botswana Animal Information and Traceability System (BAITS) initiative and ensure smooth implementation.
The initiative was introduced to improve identification of cattle and to capture all vaccinated cattle, and also for easy traceability of cattle owners.
The system ensures that no animal remains anonymous, health condition and performances of each individual animal can be immediately tracked and managed on time.
Although farmers appreciate importance of the system, they stated that it has a lot of gaps that needed to be ironed out before implementation because loopholes defeat the purpose of the system.
They made the plea during a capacity building workshop for livestock buyers in the Ngamiland District held under the theme; Improved Compliance to Rules of the Game by Livestock Buyers Can Improve Animal Traceability, Revenue Collection and Disease Control in the District. They said there were irregularities during the inception of the programme when Department of Veterinary Services engaged agents to assist farmers to ear tag livestock and now there are challenges when farmers sell to abattoirs because information on their cattle is not in the system.
In addition, they said the irregularities caused by agents also contributed to high stock theft in the district and practices of corruption involving some public servants.
They said some disgruntled farmers ended up conniving with some public officers to facilitate illegal trade of cattle.
Another farmer, Mr Charles Madisa shared the sentiments, noting that the initiative was not producing expected results and wished the department could address the loopholes before they could enforce penalties on farmers who had fail to comply.
He said a lot of farmers had expressed frustration with regard to the system as they could not sell their animals to better their lives, but indicated that the system was transparent and the problem was with the implementers.
Earlier on district veterinary officer, Mr Odireleng Thololwane revealed that the system was farmer centric, adding that the role of his department was to sell tags, issue permits and audit farms.
The initiative, he said started in 2016 under Economic Stimulus Programme and 310 000 tags were issued to Ngamiland to be given to farmers freely, but implementation was slow while some farmers did not take it serious as only 9 032 tags had been sold.
He said the department had since realised that some farmers had purchased more ear tags than needed, but still failed to ear tag their animals while some donated the tags.
Mr Thololwane also stated that they had experienced illegal tag replacement while some farmers sold their tags to facilitate trade.
He said now they had started working with the legal wing to conduct animal inspection to ensure compliance, adding that failure to comply, they would enforce temporary movement stoppage.
Head of Foot and Mouth Disease Unit in Ngamiland, Dr Nlingisisi Babayani told farmers that BAITS was not introduced to prevent stock theft, but for traceability purposes.
<i>Source : BOPA</i>