Dear Mr President,
Subject: Your visit to the Livestock Service Centre in Rufunsa District was Well Researched and Commendable!
First and foremost, I have to state that your policy statements on livestock have NEVER impressed me. However, on the day of your visit to the Livestock Service Centre, you gave me hope. Why do I say so? Well, it is because you asked pertinent and well-coordinated questions to your Minister and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock. The livestock sector has a strong bearing on poverty-stricken communities and the nation at large. Your genuine interest in this sector is of paramount importance to the nation. One could tell from the line of your questions that you really knew the answers, but all you wanted was to know if your Minister and PS were telling you the truth or indeed understood the implications of hurriedly embarking on the Saudi Goat Export Market. My intention is not to demean the well-learned Minister and her PS. I watched the entire 34-minute clip on your Facebook page
(https://web.facebook.com/EdgarChagwaLungu/videos/274591517234282), and you were indeed on top of the game.
As a way of backgrounding my letter, previous governments have all sang the song of livestock being a “potential economic sector” in the place of mining and crop agriculture. Indeed livestock plays a critical role in contributing to rural incomes, diversification of sources of earnings and risk management. In the traditional sector, livestock serves as “walking” savings accounts to counter drought, fluctuations in the exchange rate, prices and unemployment among many other innumerable benefits. It is increasingly becoming a dynamic part of the national economy despite being relatively unexploited.
Back to your coordinated and commendable questions. Let me start with your first question to the Minister of Fisheries and Livestock:
You asked the Minister how the animals are identified at the Livestock Service Centre. Here you were questioning our animal identification and traceability systems, which is critical for international export markets. The Minister was not definitive with her answer, but you showed a clear understanding of the requirements and standard procedures for export of livestock and livestock products.
In your next question, you asked the numbers of goats in the country. Your technocrats tried to convince you that we have about 6 million and that it was enough for export. However, you were quick to say, “let us not embarrass ourselves” and rightly so. Let us instead concentrate on building numbers locally to meet our local and regional demand.
Mr President, your insistence on meeting the local and regional demand finally made your Minister agree with you and further stated that we also have the Angolan market. Her assurance of partnering with Angola and Botswana didn’t seem to convince you still. You are correct Mr President. The two mentioned sister countries (Botswana and Namibia) already have reasonable and functional disease control, animal identification and traceability systems in place and are already exporting to Europe and the USA. It is not easy for Zambia that has semi-obsolete to rudimentary and underdeveloped systems to rely on working with sister countries in its current state. The local and regional markets are low hanging fruits that we should concentrate on for now as we stimulate production. The Congolese meat market has a massive appetite for goats, and this is easily evident by the number of goats from across the breadth and length of our country offloaded at Kasumbalesa border post daily. I hope the Minister and her PS will take heed of your timely guidance and change the direction from focusing on the famous far-fetched and unsustainable Saudi Goat Export Market to local and regional markets.
Your visit to the Livestock Service Centre in Rufunsa was well researched and reflected your in-depth understanding of the livestock subsector and what is currently obtaining. Please ask more questions like this to your technocrats even as you make those donations for egg incubators and other small livestock to women groups and other cooperatives through the Presidential Empowerment Initiative Fund. With such questions, maybe we can transform the livestock subsector and have clear holistic and sustainable livestock policies and strategies. You ended the visit by saying, “Koma COVID mwandi yaleta kanthu”, It is true that COVID-19 “yaleta kanthu” but please don’t forget the livestock subsector in your post-COVID-19 economic recovery strategy. This sector is all-encompassing, and you have the drive to realise and actualise its long sang about “potential.” Ask the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock to give you a short; medium and long-term plan how the livestock subsector can play a role in Zambia’s Economic Recovery Strategy Post-COVID. Keep it up, Mr President!
Chsoni Mumba, PhD
Senior Lecturer of Livestock/Animal Health Economics at the University of Zambia, School of Veterinary Medicine. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Mobile: +260977717258