The Veterinary Cordon Fence (VDF), popularly known as the Northern Red Line, will remain in effect for the foreseeable future despite efforts by government driven by the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, according to Meat Board General Manager, Paul Strydom.
This came amidst talk that government is at an advanced stage with other role players such as Millennium Challenge Account, International Organization on Animal Health and other neighbouring states.
"The veterinary cordon fence will remain as is for the foreseeable future , only the animal health status north of the veterinary cordon fence needs to be improved which will result in the opening of new markets for the producers north of the veterinary cordon fence," said Strydom.
Responding to talks that government, through the Directorate of Veterinary Service in the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is trying to devise ways to craft a law that will enable it to lift the VDF, Strydom said a law is not needed for such purpose.
"According to my knowledge there is no law in the pipeline for such purpose. I do not think a law is required to improve the animal health status north of the veterinary cordon fence, and this is the desired step," he said.
Strydom stated that there is an urgent need for government to comply with the conditions of the International Animal Health Organisation and trading partners to improve the animal health status north of the veterinary cordon fence.
He said "If the animal health status north of the veterinary cordon fence attains an internationally recognised status, the area and its producers will attain access to more lucrative livestock and meat markets, and thus additional income, a direct financial benefit is thus foreseen."
In terms of the Namibian meat market, Strydom said the improvement of the health status of animals north of the VDF will create a larger basket and will be to the benefit of the entire meat industry as the meat will then be in an exportable state, which would consequently improve the country’s economy of scale in world meat markets.
For this to be achieved however, he said "First the animal health status needs to attain an internationally recognised status, then exports will improve. Opening of the restrictions without putting other protective measures in place will in fact have a detrimentally affect to Namibia’s beef exports."
Speaking at the construction of a N$67 million Ondangwa veterinary laboratory last year, Agriculture, Water and Forestry, Minister, John Mutorwa, was quoted as saying the Red Line was a dark and pervasive colonial historical shadow that affects the value of livestock, income and the people's standard of living.
"I am duty bound to refer to the Red Line, which divides our country into two distinct animal health zones. Whilst the fence in itself was conceptualized to be merely an animal disease control tool, to better manage foot and mouth disease (FMD) and lung sickness (CBPP), it has a very dark and pervasive colonial historical shadow that limits the economic opportunities for the majority of the very large number of Namibians who find themselves north of the said fence," said Mutorwa at the occasion in Ondangwa last year.
Strydom said the veterinary cordon fence protects the area/zone south of the Veterinary Cordon Fence from a possible spread of diseases from north of the veterinary cordon fence.
"Botswana has similar fences. However, there is no doubt that all in Namibia would like to see the entire country, perhaps with the exclusion of the Zambezi region with the same animal disease status," said Strydom.
His sentiments were seconded by veterinarian and animal disease control expert, Dr. Baby Kaurivi.
"The lifting of the VCF is foreseen to be a reality if the appropriate measures such as strengthening of veterinary services, infrastructures and the construction of the border fence between Namibia and Angola are put in place. The strengthened veterinary services will monitor animal movement within the Northern Communal Areas (NCA) as well as between neighbouring countries," Kaurivi noted.
She added that with a credible Namibia Livestock Identification and Traceability System (NamLITS) in place, animal movement can be recorded and controlled through livestock ear tagging and a movement permit system.
"The eradication of the Lung sickness from the NCA will be a lengthy process that might hinder the VCF to be lifted, since the VCF can only be lifted after the eradication of the disease from the area. Lung sickness is still detected in the protection zone," she said.
Chief veterinary officer Dr. Adrianatus Maseke said cabinet approved policy for the eradication of trans-boundary animal disease in the northern communal areas after which a strategy had been developed and is being implemented.
He said the success of the strategy depends on their ability to perform animal disease surveillance and rapid response to animal health calamities.
"A number of activities are taking place. The Government is currently developing the needed veterinary infrastructure such as veterinary offices, clinics and laboratories. And a big effort to recruit more veterinary personnel is underway to assist.
He said the strategy does have certain milestones to be reached but most importantly they would have to consider the northward movement of the VCF to the border with the Republic of Angola in order to safeguard the animal health status of Namibian livestock and to unlock high value markets for the NCA.
"This is a process that needs to break out of the consultation process and unfortunately would require a great deal of consultation and is a long term prospect. Consultations are very necessary in order to ensure all stakeholders are accommodated and their needs taken care of," he said.