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Co-operators cry out as new Foot and Mouth disease outbreak hits Lyantonde

Livestock farmers in Lyantonde are desolate following the outbreak of foot and mouth disease (FMD) in the district that has affected milk production and supply.

Especially affected are the district’s more than 20 dairy cooperatives, including Kabula Farmers Dairy Co-op, Kyenshama Dairy Farmers, and Twimukye Dairy Farmers in Kasagama Sub County, among others.

Yosia Bagabo, the Chairperson of the 800-member Kabula Farmers’ Cooperative Society Ltd, says they have already registered a drop in the level of milk production and supply from the co-op’s members.

“One of the signs of foot and mouth disease is a reduction in the amount of milk from the cattle.  For example, when this disease was first reported in Lyantonde, the cooperative’s milk capacity reduced from 60,000 litres to current 4200 litres a day,” he said

Bagabo adds that, as a result of the deadly disease, some of the co-op’s member farmers have been suspended from supplying milk to the cooperative’s 14 coolers within the district.

“So far six dairy farmers in our cooperative have been stopped from supplying us milk. Of these, two were each supplying us with 200 litres of milk daily, meaning that we have lost almost 400 litres of daily supply,” the Chairperson explained.

Dr Ronald Bameka,   the District Veterinary Officer (DVO) Lyantonde said the new outbreak was reported on 5th and 6th of January 2021 in Buyanja Cell Buyanja Parish in Kasagama Sub County Lyantonde district.

“We were hit by an outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease early this month and it was first reported in one farm but eventually spread to four farms since some of our farmers never knew it was FMD,” says Bameka.

Fortunately, the DVO says, although about 60 heads of cattle are already infected, the outbreak has not claimed any of the animals yet.

“Foot and Mouth disease was earlier reported in February 2017 in the districts of Lyantonde, Mbarara, Kiruhura and Isingiro, a disruption that led to grave implications on the farmers’ household income and livelihoods generally within the cattle corridor”. Bameka explained

Cause of FMD

The DVO pinpointed Lake Mburo National Park, where most of the livestock are grazed during the dry spell, as the likely source of the disease.

“This national park is the reservoir of FMD because some of the wild animals like pigs, buffalos and warthogs can contract and transmit the disease without showing any signs, so we assume that the virus can be transmitted from them,” Bameka says.

In support of his deduction, Bameka says the disease first spread from Nshara ranch than to Nyakashashara, both neighbouring Lake Mburo National Park.

He also noted that the affected animals were mostly unvaccinated.

“The fact that these animals are not vaccinated and yet they are mixing with wild animals is the only reason FMD spreads in our district,” Bameka says.

Preventive measures

Dr Bameka says the district is seeking for vaccines from MAAIF to vaccinate all livestock in Buyanja parish, Kasagama, Lyakaihura, Kyemamba and the other areas of Kinuuka and Kaliiro, while a temporary quarantine has been imposed on the hard-hit Kasagama Sub County.

Meanwhile, Kabula Co-op’s Chairperson says the cooperative has already spent about Shs 3m on containing the disease in the area.

“We first spent one million shillings to buy JIK, after which we bought sprays that we put on different roads to the cooperative. Therefore, you can see the level of expenditure FMD has caused to us as dairy farmers,” says Bagabo.

He called on the government to put in place measures for continuous livestock vaccination in order to eliminate FMD within the cattle corridor.

“For instance, now that there is an outbreak of FMD, the ministry has sent us drugs to immunize the animals. But after the epidemic fades out, everything will end, and yet this disease comes from wild animals that we relate with continuously,” Bagabo explained.

The imposition of quarantine comes as the latest blow for farmers already reeling from the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The fact that we were greatly affected by COVID-19 lockdown, I request the DVO to ease on the quarantine such that some of the dairies can keep operating to enable our farmers to sell their milk because enforcing a quarantine is like adding an injury to the households’ income,” says George Kamuntu, another farmer.

 But Dr Bameka maintains that the quarantine is a necessary sacrifice that farmers must bear if the deadly FMD is to be eradicated from the land. 

“Whereas I know the quarantine is hard on farmers, I know that if we observe it strictly, within two to three months we shall have fought this disease and markets will be opened to start trading again,” he said.

He also encouraged the government to improve on the capabilities of district laboratories to cater to such livestock outbreaks.

“Our laboratories in various districts should be supported so that all tests should be conducted in time instead of having to transport them to Entebbe for confirmation,” says Bameka.

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