Saturday, April 07, 2012

Farmers urge decentralisation of animal testing centres

Farmers urge decentralisation of animal testing centres
By Gift Chanda in Namwala
Sat 07 Apr. 2012, 13:29 CAT

FARMERS have called for the decentralisation of animal testing centres to boost the livestock sector growth. During the first ever livestock field day held in Namwala on Wednesday, farmers condemned the current situation where testing of animals for diseases is only done in Lusaka.

They observed that since the outbreak of the contagious bovine pleuropneumonia (CBPP) animal disease, the testing of blood samples for disease screening before cattle is moved from one district to another is still done in Lusaka at Balmoral, a situation they said was hampering the growth of the country's beef sector.

"There has been some progress in disease control but at a huge cost to the farmers," said Zambia National Farmers Union president Jervis Zimba, who spoke on behalf of farmers.

"Farmers have to bring their blood samples at their own cost to Lusaka for testing…this has been a major cost and hurdle. But going forward for the livestock sector to be vibrant, there is need to decentralise the testing of animals to bring the services closer to the farmers in the districts or regions as a matter of urgency."

Zimba further noted that livestock theft was another challenge hampering the growth of the sector, especially the beef industry.

"Our farmers continue to live in fear of losing animals, which is their main source of livelihood and store of wealth, not to mention that even their lives are at the mercy of cattle rustlers," Zimba said.

"We would like to appeal to the government to put in place legislation which should make cases of cattle rustling to become non-bailable offence. The government should introduce stiffer penalties such as ‘any vehicle caught with stolen carcass' should be forfeited to the state. This would go a long way in deterring cattle theft."

He said the sector was still in its infancy and required support to develop and grow.

Zimba also noted that the increased maize bran exports had pushed up stock feed prices.

"The farmers are facing difficulties in accessing maize bran for supplementary feeding of animals. If this situation is not addressed, Zambia could become a net importer of beef instead of increasing local production…this problem requires a permanent solution from the government," said Zimba.

"The farmers are also concerned that there is little support towards research for the livestock sector development."

And agriculture deputy minister, Brigadier General Benson Kapaya said his ministry had formulated a draft Livestock Development Policy to guide effective implementation of priority programmes and activities needed to fast track the development of the sub sector in Zambia.

Brig Gen Kapaya said the government had embarked on programmes to establish livestock service centres in all districts to improve service delivery and establish breeding centres to increase stock at affordable prices to farming communities.

He also explained that the livestock development policy would provide a secure and conducive environment for production, marketing and trade.

Brig Gen Kapaya said the policy would also promote diversification of livestock production base, build and maintain national capacity to deal with adverse climatic variations, disease outbreaks and other emergencies.

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