In a bid to tackle the rampant spread of foot and mouth disease across Uganda, the government has rolled out a contentious strategy, sparking both support and criticism from farmers and stakeholders alike.
Minister for Agriculture, Frank Tumwebaze, announced the Cabinet’s approval of a comprehensive plan during a recent sitting chaired by President Museveni. Central to the strategy is the introduction of a system where farmers shoulder the financial burden of foot and mouth disease vaccines for their livestock.
Initially, the focus will be on procuring 10 million doses of the vaccine to bolster ring vaccination efforts in affected and high-risk districts. Additionally, the government plans to establish a revolving fund to ensure a steady supply of vaccines for compulsory bi-annual vaccinations.
Under the approved policy, farmers will be responsible for purchasing the vaccines, while the government covers the costs of administration, transportation, and storage. This move aims to create a sustainable framework for combating the disease while ensuring farmers remain financially invested in the health of their livestock.
Crucially, the Cabinet has mandated compulsory vaccination for all susceptible domestic animals once an adequate vaccine supply is secured. Proof of vaccination will become a prerequisite for selling animals or animal products, reinforcing the importance of disease control measures.
Despite these efforts, foot and mouth disease continues to afflict numerous districts across Uganda, with at least 36 currently affected. Quarantine measures have been implemented in these areas, eliciting mixed reactions from local communities.
As the government forges ahead with its plans, Minister Tumwebaze appeals to farmers and stakeholders to support the initiative, emphasizing the collective goal of eradicating foot and mouth disease from Uganda’s livestock population, akin to past successes such as the eradication of rinderpest. However, concerns persist regarding the practicality and equity of the new vaccination policy, highlighting the challenges inherent in balancing disease control with the socioeconomic realities of agricultural communities.