Cattle markets closed as foot and mouth disease deepens in western cattle corridor

KAZO – Farmers, leaders and veterinary officers in Greater Mbarara are worried after the fresh outbreak of foot and mouth disease [FMD] in the western cattle corridor.

According to Dr. Juderia Pacsmario, the Buremba town council veterinary officer, FMD was first reported on March 11, 2023, by the LC I chairman Bwantama village, Buremba Town Council in Kazo district.

“We were notified by the LC I chairman Bwantama Cell, Kyabahura ward where we visited a farm and confirmed that it is FMD. We called an emergency meeting to sensitise our farmers,” Pacsmario said.

Benjamin Kyarigonza, LC I chairman Bwantama Cell explained that the three deceased bulls were bought from Kyenshama market, a renowned livestock market bordering two districts of Mbarara Kiruhura.

He said the disease has so far affected five farmers that are grazing from a single farm in Bwantama Cell, urging district officials to control the movement of cattle to contain the disease.

“To my fellow farmers, let’s be alert; ensure that the affected animals don’t move to avoid the spread of FMD to the entire district,” he said.

He also confirmed that the district has enforced a temporary quarantine in the area and nobody is allowed to sell livestock, meat, milk and other products.

“In a meeting held at the sub-county where the mayor, GISO [Gombolola Internal Security Officer] and the district chairperson attended, we resolved that if any person is found transporting animals, they will be arrested and prosecuted,” Kyarigonza emphasised.

Following the outbreak of the FMD in Kazo district, leaders in Kiruhura district have resolved to ban the operation of livestock markets in the area to avert the spread of the disease on farms.

According to the document this reporter has seen, Charles Kiberu Nsubuga, the chief administrative officer Kiruhura said the disease reported in the neighbouring districts poses a risk to the district that mainly depends on keeping livestock.

“Following the new cases of foot and mouth disease … in some parts of the district [Kiruhura] and the neighbouring districts, we have decided to have a temporary closure of all livestock markets to reduce the threat of the disease transmission dynamics,” reads part of the letter.

Among the temporarily closed livestock markets include; Kyenshama, Kyeibuza and Nyakasharara

Dr. Bruhan Kasozi, the Isingiro district veterinary officer confirmed that the district also has registered FMD in one of the farms in Rwetango Sub-county. “There is quarantine and I am trying to secure a few doses from the ministry so that we do ring vaccination”.

Kasozi however says his efforts are weakened by politicians that politicise the disease in the district.

“With FMD, we are always alert. We close the markets and allow people to sell from their farms to limit the movement of animals. That is how we have managed this disease here. But eventually, you will hear politicians saying the quarantine has been going on for over 20 years and farmers are not selling their animals and products, which is not the case,” he said.

Dr. Kasozi wondered why politicians rush to open livestock markets even when the disease still exists. “Recently, they [politicians] forcefully opened Kamwema cattle market and I am told there is another big person who wants to forcefully open all the remaining livestock markets. But remember whenever you open those markets you are creating more danger to the district,” Kasozi said.

Dr. Ronald Bameka, the district veterinary officer Lyantonde said, “The fact that the disease has escalated in the neighbouring districts we have to keep alert and prepare for its control.”

“FMD is a transboundary disease and Lyantonde being an immediate district to Kiruhura, we shall make sure that there is biosecurity whereby people entering farms must disinfect.  If we get a case from any of our sub-counties bordering Kiruhura district, then we can either put a total or partial quarantine in the affected area,” Bameka said.

Dr. Hilary Arinaitwe, district veterinary officer Ibanda confirmed they have a total of 6,500 doses of anti-FMD vaccines for cattle in Keihangara, Kicence, Nyamarebe sub-counties, as well as Rushango and Kanyarugiri town councils, and Bisheshe Division in Ibanda Municipality, which border with Kazo and Kiruhura districts.

Arinaitwe said FMD affects cattle, goats, pigs, sheep and buffalos, thus appealing to all farmers, parish chiefs and other leaders to comply with the vaccination exercise to prevent the spread of the contagious viral disease in the district.

Dr. Andrew Akashaba, the district veterinary officer Mbarara district also confirmed FMD outbreak in Byembogo village, Rubaya Sub-county which borders Kiruhura district. “We got our first case from Rubaya and as I speak we are holding sensitisation meetings because most of our farmers are ignorant about these cattle diseases.”

He added that the district is also surveying the existing tick-borne diseases and rift valley fever that was registered in Rwanyamahembe Sub-county since January 2023.

“It was concentrated in Rwanyamahembe Sub-county where about 50 heads of cattle showed signs, we have dealt with it and it’s no longer a threat but it’s still under surveillance,” Akashaba said.

He appealed to the Ministry of Agriculture to always make a quick intervention to consider livestock diseases as emergency cases since delays in responding to the diseases result in losses on the side of farmers.

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