By Prossy Nandudu
Uganda and Tanzania are to conduct joint animal vaccinations and inspection of livestock, a move aimed at eliminating transboundary livestock diseases that are threatening the beef market for the two countries.
Transboundary animal diseases are highly contagious and transmissible diseases of livestock which spread faster to new areas regardless of national borders. They also have serious socio-economic and public health consequences.
Examples include Foot-and-Mouth Disease in cattle, Contagious bovine pleuropneumonia (CBPP) (goats), African swine fever, (pigs) and the avian influenza (poultry).
The development was revealed by the Minister of State for Agriculture, Bright Rwamirama, during the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Uganda and Tanzania last week on the sidelines of the African Food Systems Summit in Dar es Salaam.
The MOU is aimed at harmonising disease control and regulations to match international standards, especially in disease surveillance, among others.
“Animal diseases know no boundaries, although there are borders. We are increasing agriculture production and for livestock production, we need to work together to produce good quality products for local and external markets,” Rwamirama said.
He explained that once the challenge of diseases is managed, the two countries will then embark on joint beef export programmes.
Apart from meeting market standards, joint control of livestock diseases will also reduce transmission of animal diseases to humans hence contributing to the one health initiative, an integrated approach that balances the health of people, animals and ecosystems for proper management.
The five-year agreement was signed by Tanzania’s minister of livestock and fisheries, Abdallah Hamis Ulega on behalf of the Tanzanian government and witnessed by permanent secretary Prof. Riziki Shemdoe while Rwamirama signed on behalf of Uganda, and it was witnessed by Rtd. Col. Fred Mwesigye, the High Commissioner of Uganda to Tanzania.
Ulega said the MOU on co-operation and implementation of cross-border measures to prevent and control TADs and zoonosis is timely.
Ulega explained that the border of Uganda and Tanzania is almost 396kmlong and extends from Lake Victoria in the east, covering districts of Misenyi, Karagwe and Kyerwa in Tanzania and Isingiro, Rakai and Ntungamo in Uganda.
“Directors of veterinary services of Tanzania and Uganda should take the leading role in the implementation of the MOU and report regularly to authorities concerned. The goal should be to prevent and control transboundary animal diseases and zoonosis not only along the border, but the entire land of Tanzania and Uganda,” Ulega said.
Private sector views on the MOU
Daniel Ojambo, the agriculture sector lead at Private Sector Foundation Uganda (PSFU), welcomed the MOU and explained that some diseases, like foot and mouth affect the economics of both the countries and the farmers.
“Where an FMD outbreak is reported, a quarantine is imposed because it is infectious and that means no trade in beef and no financial transaction in that period,” Ojambo added.
He said livestock farmers depend 90% on livestock for milk and meat.
So, this MOU is important in creating a clean market and restoring livelihoods for cattle keepers.
His views were supplemented by Eric Sempambo, the business environment specialist at PSFU, who said among the many MOUs signed between Uganda and other countries in terms of agriculture exports, standards are key for Uganda to remain in the beef export market.
“We must adhere to standards. The world recognises disease-free products, meaning the meat must be safe and that is the relevance of this kind of MOU,” Sempambo said.
He, however, said for the MOU to work, implementation will require all stakeholders, like government for regulations, district veterinary officers to give technical advice and the private sector to sell the drugs and vaccines.
According to the United Nations COMTRADE database on international trade, Uganda exported meat worth $2.23 million in 2020.