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Namibia’s beef export restriction ends1 minute read

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Namibia’s agriculture ministry has announced the end of trade and movement restrictions on cattle from Kabbe North Constituency in the Northeast of the country. A region which had an outbreak of foot and mouth disease, FMD, first detected in August 2019.

This means Namibian beef can now be exported again.

Kabbe’s chief veterinary officer, Albertina Shilongo says more than 96% of the cattle in the region have been successfully vaccinated against FMD.

Shilongo adds that all the indications are that the FMD outbreak has been successfully controlled. Hence, the decision to lift all restrictions that were put in place for the purposes of controlling the outbreak.

The viral disease affects cattle, sheep and other cloven-hoofed animals but does not affect human beings. It causes lesions and lameness in the animals. The latest incident was last detected was located in the Zambezi region, in December 2019.

According to Namibia’s national FMD contingency plan, the restrictions have been lifted after three months from the last confirmed case in the FMD infected zone considering no new cases have been detected.

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Namibia suspends cereal importation to boost local production

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Namibia will suspend all cereal imports from next month. The temporary ban is expected to boost the local production of Maize and pearl millet.

The Namibian Agronomic Board, NAB made the announcement on Wednesday that maize and pearl millet imports will not be allowed entry into the country until millers have taken up the local harvest, later in the year, in November.

NAB chief executive, Fidelis Mwazi informed processors that pearl millet import permits will only be valid until June 30.

According to recent estimates by the NAB, the projected demand for local white maize for the next six months stands at 70,000 metric tons while the expected harvest by Namibian producers stands at 64,039 metric tons.

Mwazi adds that due to good rainfall experienced in most of the production zones, a total of 3,000 tons is expected to be marketed to millers and silos during this upcoming marketing season.

The NAB adds that millers who refuse to take up maize from producers during the restricted import period will not be given import permits.

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Struggling Moroccan fishermen turn to aquaculture for revenue

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Floundering Moroccan fishermen turn to aquaculture for revenue
Fisherman work on a fish farm off the coast of the Moroccan city of M'diq, on October 3, 2019.(Photo by FADEL SENNA / AFP)

With fish stocks declining in the Mediterranean, struggling Moroccan fishermen are hoping to turn to aquaculture as a way to secure their future.

“We don’t get anything from the sea anymore, we’re paying for the mistakes of our fathers,” said Mohamed Bouajra, a fisherman in Ras Kebdana, a port town near Morocco’s eastern border with Algeria.

But aquaculture offers a “glimmer of hope for escaping poverty”, he said. 

In Ras Kebdana, the Al Amal cooperative for independent fishermen is banking on the development of an offshore mussel farm to maintain future livelihoods. 

Another cooperative at Mar Chica lagoon, some 40 kilometres (24 miles) west, runs a red algae farm to supply pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries. 

Fisherman work on a fish farm off the coast of the Moroccan city of M’diq (Photo by FADEL SENNA / AFP)

Aimed at preserving fish stocks and supplementing falling revenues for small-scale fishermen, these two pilot projects are part of an ambitious national plan launched in 2009 called Blue Morocco. 

While the number of fishing boats in Ras Kebdana has tripled since the 1990s, “there are no more fish”, said Bouajra. 

Now in his 60s, Bouajra recalls the good days when fishing from his wooden boat would bring in 400 dirhams a day. 

Today, he said he is lucky to make 40 dirhams: “You can’t live on that.”

Read: Ghanaian fishermen decry illegal “saiko” practices and declining stocks

A worker tends to nets at a mussels farm off the coast of the port city of Nador in Morocco (Photo by FADEL SENNA / AFP)

Figures from Morocco’s department of maritime fishing confirm the decline. Catches in the eastern Oriental region dropped from 14.7 tonnes to 7.4 between 2013 and 2017.

Along the rest of Morocco’s Mediterranean coast, catches declined 30 per cent, alarming authorities.

Depleted fisheries are a financial concern, as exported seafood brought 22 billion dirhams in 2017, about half of food exports and 10 per cent of total exports.

Seaweed, algae –

“With climate change, the environment is deteriorating and fish are becoming scarce — not only in Morocco but across the world. We need to find alternatives to survive,” said Mimoune Bouasu.

The 47-year-old fisherman heads the independent fishermen’s cooperative in Mar Chicha, which manages 11 hectares (27 acres) of red algae aquafarms.

The cooperative sells the seaweed for six dirhams a kilo to a Moroccan company that invested in the venture.

“What we lack from fishing, we get from the algae,” said Bouasu, adding that he hopes the project will increase in size. 

The cooperative currently employs eight people and recruits seasonal labour during planting and harvesting.

Further west along the Mediterranean near the Strait of Gibraltar, Abdelaziz Benhamou is in charge of production at an aquafarm in M’diq. 

Fisherman work on a fish farm off the coast of the Moroccan city of M’diq (Photo by FADEL SENNA / AFP)

The Aqua M’diq company employs 24 staff and raises sea bass in offshore cages.

It is considered a model fish farm by the National Aquaculture Development Agency (ANDA), which hopes to replicate the project elsewhere on the Mediterranean or Atlantic coasts.

“Resources diminished because fishermen didn’t respect closed seasons for most species. Today, that’s starting to change, but everyone agrees that nothing is like before,” the 50-year-old former fisherman said.

In a recent report, Morocco’s financial oversight body, the court of auditors, warned of “over-exploited stocks”, blaming non-compliance with regulations governing quotas, restrictions on fishing gear and closed seasons. 

Changing mindsets –

The court also highlighted delays in developing the aquaculture sector, noting that “certain strategic objectives have not been met”.

The 2009 Blue Morocco plan envisaged producing 200,000 tonnes of seafood from aquaculture by 2020. But in 2018, production was only 700 tonnes, according to ANDA.

After several years of technical studies, some 150 projects are now “in the process of launching” with private investment, according to Mustafa Amzough.

A manager at ANDA, Amzough says these projects — including 15 in the Mediterranean — have a total objective of 150,000 tonnes. 

In Ras Kebdana, undersea nets for growing mussels have only been installed across five of the site’s 15 hectares. And the shellfish are still not ready for harvest, five years after the project was launched. 

The 35 members of the cooperative maintain the mussels, hoping to begin sales next year.

In the meantime, boats continue going out for octopus, the main seafood available in the area.

But despite this, fisherman Bouajra says the mussel farm has already changed people’s mindset. “Before, there was no respect for the environment.” 

Now there is weekly water sampling and analysis to monitor the health of the water. 

“Today, the water is clean,” he said.

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Africa records impressive success in fight against sleeping sickness

The disease, transmitted to humans by the tsetse fly, was once a curse in 30 countries.

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Can Africa end the curse of sleeping sickness?
A child cries as a health worker pricks his finger to draw blood as he takes part in a sleeping sickness screening. Photo: ISSOUF SANOGO / AFP

Once the bane of sub-Saharan Africa, sleeping sickness is agonisingly close to being wiped out, but only if countries — and donors — keep up their guard, say, scientists.

The disease, transmitted to humans by the tsetse fly, was once a curse in 30 countries.

But a coordinated global fight to eradicate it has borne fruit, leading to a 95-per cent fall in cases over the past 15 years, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Last year, the agency recorded only 977 cases, compared to a peak of some 300,000 in the 1990s. Its hope is that sleeping sickness will enter the history books by 2030.

Sleeping sickness — human African trypanosomiasis — is caused by the Trypanosoma parasite, which is transmitted to humans by the tsetse when it takes a blood meal.

The disease is fatal unless diagnosed and treated rapidly. Early symptoms are severe headaches and muscle aches and fever. 

Sufferers feel lethargic and sleepy by day then awake and exhausted at night. Neuropsychiatric and sensory disorders follow, then a coma before death ensues within months or sometimes even years later.

Technicians analyze blood drawn from people as they take part in a sleeping sickness, screening in the village of Paanenefla near Sinfra, Ivory Coast. (Photo by ISSOUF SANOGO / AFP)

READ : Telemedicine revolution saving lives in Ivory Coast

“Sleeping sickness is scary — when someone has it, it makes them mad,” said Emile Gouribitiali, 56, a villager in central Ivory Coast whose mother and younger brother both fell ill.

But scientists say this dreaded disease is on the ropes.

“After a century of fighting it, sleeping sickness is on the verge of being eradicated,” said Dr Dramane Kaba, an entomologist and director of the Pierre Richet Institute (IPR) at Bouake in central Ivory Coast.

“Sleeping sickness has almost stopped being a public health problem in Africa,” he said. “But we have to maintain our efforts.”

The institute, founded in 1970, specialises in insect-transmitted diseases including malaria, dengue, zika and chikungunya. 

Meticulous task –

A child looks away and covers her face as a health worker pricks her finger to draw blood as she takes part in a sleeping sickness screening (Photo by ISSOUF SANOGO / AFP)

Despite the progress, “pockets of resistance” remain, says Kaba.

They include the Democratic Republic of Congo — home to 80 per cent of cases — and Guinea, where health programmes have been ravaged by the Ebola crisis.

It is also difficult to gain an accurate assessment in areas of armed conflict.

If the overall outlook is relatively favourable, there must be no let-up towards eradication, Kaba insists.

He points to the fact that after a campaign against the illness from the 1920s through to the 1960s “vigilance then dropped off and the illness returned”.

Combatting the spread of the disease requires meticulous work to break the chain of transmission and kill the parasite, said Vincent Jamonneau at France’s Research Institute for Development (IRD).

Teams on the ground, working with lab-based researchers, comb rural areas to uncover possible causes of the disease and beef up control of the tsetse fly, which favours a hot, humid habitat.

Flytraps –

They log symptoms that point to possible infection and then carry out a quick diagnostic blood test, obtaining results confirmed in a lab.

A tsetse fly trap, made out of blue screens that contains insecticide, is set by Pierre Richet Institute (IPR) workers (Photo by ISSOUF SANOGO / AFP)

Patients identified in this way can be cured through hospitalisation of seven to 10 days, which the WHO provides free of charge across Africa. A revolutionary treatment, which involves taking a one-off pill, is being tested.

Ironically, as the disease is rolled back, it becomes more and more difficult to encourage villagers to come forward and get tested, said Jammoneau.

“People no longer feel that the disease is a threat,” he said.

The researchers also test cattle, another tsetse target who suffer a different strain of the virus — animal trypanosomiasis. They lose weight, their milk production slumps, then they die.

IPR teams set tsetse traps in villages where they operate. The traps comprise blue screens impregnated with insecticide — the flies find the colour attractive. 

Another trap variant permits capture to assess their number and then dissection to determine if they are infected.

The IPR hosts research at its lab as the scientific community hones its battle to eradicate sleeping sickness. 

The lab can draw on some state-of-the-art equipment as well as some 100 employees, including 16 researchers, but needs renovating, said Kaba. 

For Jamonneau, “the means to eradicate trypanosomiasis are there.

“But this disease raises scant interest among fundraisers. So we still need their support as the challenge is to track down and treat the last cases in order to finish off the illness.”

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