Removal of redline soon a reality

Home Business Removal of redline soon a reality

By Deon Schlechter

WINDHOEK –The erecting of a border fence between Namibia and Angola and the removal of the infamous veterinary cordon fence, known as the ‘redline’, could soon be a reality.

When this long envisioned dream is finally realised northern communal farmers will be able to export their beef to international markets – but only once the north’s livetsock sector is declared free of deadly animal diseases.

Speaking at the opening of the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA)-Namibia’s Livestock Support Activity Workshop this week in Windhoek, Dr Albertina Shilongo, project team leader of a programme to declare the northern communal areas (NCAs) free of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), said all eyes are on cabinet’s approval of a submission on the issue. 

A recently completed study found that  erecting a fence of about 240km between Namibia and Angola and doing away with the redline would be the most viable option for the future of the Namibian livestock industry.

The task will be made easier as the World Animal Health Organisation (WAHO) regards the Kunene and Kavango rivers as natural borders between the two countries.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry Joseph Iita confirmed the latest developments, saying it is in the interest of all Namibians. The redline is seen as an oppressive measure that divides the country into two parts. Its removal has been a topic of discussion for many years and now it seems the country is one step closer in breaking down this barrier that has been a source of dismay among northern farmers. The erection of a fence between Namibia and Angola would relieve animal disease outbreaks and stock losses.

Shilongo said many stakeholders’ meetings in the NCAs were conducted by the Directorate of Veterinary Services to educate northern farmers on steps that need to be taken to eliminate the redline and prepare them for the border fence.

Although more than half of the country’s 2,8 million cattle are in the NCAs, the meat of the animals in those areas is not exported to the European Union (EU) because the NCAs are considered high-risk and prone to animal diseases, especially lung sickness and FMD.

Shilongo said Namibia finalised an application to the (WAHO) to declare the NCAs FMD-free. The project to improve rural livelihood in areas north of the redline to eradicate the current restrictions is tricky. In order to eradicate lung sickness and prevent the re-introduction of the disease, a system to limit the risk of cross-border infection was required, she said.

“It is hard to control the movement between Angola and Namibia as there is a free border. In the past they tried to control it, but it failed. Not all communities interviewed during the recent study were in favour of  a border fence as their animals roam between the two countries for grazing, but almost all of them greeted the possibility of new markets for their livestock with great enthusiasm,” said Shilongo.

Other requirements to declare the NCA an FMD-free zone include stopping new diseases from entering into Namibia and having the capacity to find and respond to diseases quickly. “Unfortunately, in Namibia veterinary services are not strong enough.  One of the aims of the project is to improve the capacity of the vets,” explained Shilongo.

She emphasised that although cabinet has not yet approved the proposal of a border fence, she was confident funds would be made available for this undertaking. “Hopefully soon, so that the project can start next year,” she said.