Livestock farmers in Ankole Sub-region are seeking government authorisation to buy the foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) vaccines to reduce the number of animal deaths.
Farmers from Mbarara, Isingiro, Ntungamo, Ibanda, Kiruhura and Kazo districts have been battling the disease since December last year when government imposed quarantine.
Government supplied them with vaccines but they were not enough for the whole region.
While meeting the State Minister for Animal Industry, Mr Bright Rwamirama, at the weekend, farmers asked the government to allow them bypass its procurement procudures.
"If there can be a policy to allow farmers to co-fund the procurement of vaccines, there can be regular vaccination of our herds. We know funding may be a problem but farmers are willing to make sure that there is availability of FMD vaccines," Mr Grace Asiimwe, the Kiruhura veterinary officer, said.
Mr Peter Taremwa, a dairy farmer in Kazo District, said they want to buy their own vaccines because government takes long to buy them.
"The challenge is that we have an outbreak in 40 districts yet the government does not have the vaccines. The factory that produces across the border may not produce in time. So our appeal is that we use licensed drug dealers to buy drugs for our animals," Mr Taremwa said.
"We have farmer cooperative societies where drugs can be developed and be given licences so that they bring them to their farmers," he added.
The Kiruhura District Chairperson, Mr Dan Mukaago Rutetebya, also questioned the vaccines used.
"About 15 per cent of the farms that were vaccinated got reinfected so we need studies to access whether the issues were with the animals or the vaccine. Samples were picked and we shall get answers," he said. Mr Mukaago accused leaders of spreading FMD. "We did not put in more effort because some farmers used it (vaccine) wrongly. When FMD is gone, we shall ask about lessons learnt so that we can control the next outbreak well," he said.
Ms Jovanice Rwenduru, the Kiruhura Woman MP, urged government to find a permanent solution to the disease and called for regular vaccination.
"We can vaccinate cows consecutively for six years. Dairy farmers from Kiruhura only depend on cows for income so when they are affected, the economy is also affected. So we must look for vaccines that will last to ensure that income of the people is protected," Ms Rwenduru said.
However, Mr Rwamirama said the government's mandate to protect its people and their property cannot be transferred to any individual.
"The farmers are very desperate; they want the vaccine and to make sure they get good vaccines, we cannot allow everybody to import the vaccine. What is holding us is not money but a breakdown in the system in the factory where we are getting the vaccine," he said.
"You first get the samples from sick animals and then you verify the cell type that has attacked the animals and these are the samples that we sent to the factory so that they prepare, so we are going to overcome this because we are at the tail end to complete our vaccine factory," the minister added.
Mr Rwamirama said the country is expecting 1.4 million doses of vaccines, adding that 500,000 doses were expected to be given to farmers yesterday.