By Andrew Arinaitwe
Legislators were unhappy on the floor of Parliament on Thursday afternoon as they expressed the devastating impacts of the foot and mouth disease in mostly the southwestern region that is bordering Tanzania.
The Gomba West MP Robina Rwakoojo said that the ruthless animal disease threatening livestock was spreading like a ‘wildfire’.
“I’m entitled to speak for the people with cattle and I am equally hurting, we cannot sell milk, we cannot sell cows and people are asking us for school fees. I thought some provisions would be made in some of those schools at the beginning of this team because honestly people are seated at home and are not going anywhere,” Rwakoojo said as she added how constituents blame MPs for abandoning cattle keepers since they get cash, something she didn’t agree with since she is also a cattle farmer.
The revelations were made during a plenary session at Parliament where Frank Tumwebaze the agriculture minister was making a statement on how the government was addressing the pressing issue.
Kashari South County MP Nathan Itungo who expressed disappointment with the presentation, urged the agriculture ministry to develop quick solutions to tackle foot and mouth disease and calm concerns of animal owners.
“When you are talking of animal products, you are talking of perishables, milk will not wait for you tomorrow. You cannot keep meat for a day and our farmers are suffering in this school fees period, and this is the source of living,” Itungo said as he revealed that the disease won’t wait for the budget.
Itungo added that using fire brigade mechanisms to address the foot and mouth disease outbreak would not help since another disease could prop up on any occasion.
Rwakoojo suggested that the number of cattle in an area should be the determinant of how the government responds to the affected cartel corridors.
“We always appropriate funds in the budget for the Ministry of Agriculture for pesticides & things to do with fisheries but animals are left out. Why do you want to sell the vaccines to us in the short run? First, give them to us for free, then we can start paying.” Rwakoojo said.
Napore West County MP, Philiphs Lokwang queried whether the Ministry is ready with qualified personnel to administer vaccines to animals, noting that goats in Karamoja were vaccinated by individuals claiming to be veterinary officers, but the disease had spread in the area
Padyere County MP, Isaac Otimgiw tasked the agriculture minister to present to Parliament, an update on the number of districts affected by foot and mouth disease. He also asked for verification measures of the authenticity of vaccination certificates.
“I fear we are going to have to wait for the supplementary to help farmers but what is the immediate solution?” Otimgiw asked.
The West Moyo County MP, Tom Alero Aza, said he was fearful that the disease which has affected south western region could affect northern Uganda.
“Cows from South Sudan freely roam from West Nile to Lamwo and the areas are used to graze animals and I fear these areas will get issues related to foot and mouth disease if the government cannot come to control the movement of the animals,” Alero said.
“I have met farmers who are saying the Government has controlled the supply of these vaccines, you don’t have capacity to supply. I have my money, my cows are dying, and you can’t even allow me to buy these vaccines, what do you want me to do? This business of us not having the option to buy vaccines and yet we can’t allow them to buy and their cows are dying, you would rather tell them that the vaccines are available and they buy and they save their cows. What does it help for us to stop them and the cows end up dying because we don’t have capacity,” said Deputy Speaker and Mitooma MP, Thomas Tayebwa.
Nyabushozi County MP Wilson Twinomugisha who acknowledged the statement as one that helped address the livestock issues called on professionals to help administer the vaccines.
“Through farmer cooperatives, we could administer training on how to use these vaccines,” Twinomugisha suggested.
In response to some of the queries, Tumwebaze said the vaccines the Algerians have are of a different strain and that is why the government didn’t go ahead to purchase the possible cure as they were trying to find out what type of vaccines can help treat the Ugandan cattle breeds.
“The high-risk districts are those at the border,” Tumwebaze said as he added how high risks districts will be given more vaccine doses.
According to Tumwebaze, the 10 million doses shall be at free distribution among the 36 districts, “this quarantine is to avoid spread of the disease.”
According to Tumwebaze, the government had a short-term strategy to stop the spread of foot and mouth disease as they planned for the immediate procurement and distribution of 10 million vaccine doses to vaccinate animals in high-risk districts.
Erute County South MP Jonathan Odur asked Tumwebaze to provide the report such that it can be interrogated to allow Parliament to provide the necessary support for government to assist the 36 affected districts.