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Farmers suffer double pain of Covid, foot-and-mouth disease

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By MONITOR TEAM

Hundreds of pastoralists around the cattle corridor, whose livelihood is mainly from the sale of animals, are feeling the squeeze as a result of Covid-19 and foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) quarantine that has made it impossible for them to sell animals.
The cattle corridor districts in Uganda sit in Lango, Ankole, Karamoja, Teso, Luweero sub-regions.

In Karamoja, cattle is the source of all livelihood during times of grain shortage. The proceeds from animal sales enable pastoralists secure grains but this has been limited during the lockdown as law enforcers tighten their grip against movement of animals and operation of markets.
Mr Mark Abuko, the Kaabong District chairperson, for told Daily Monitor that pastoralists in his district are struggling with the double tragedy of livestock quarantine and Covid-19 pandemic guidelines as they cannot sell in open markets.

“I belief the most disadvantaged people in this era of Covid-19 have been pastoralists in areas of Karamoja, where livestock quarantine has affected pastoralists. Before we could cope with effects of foot-and-mouth disease, another human disease struck,” he says.
Mr Abuko says the pastoralists have had to rely on relief from the World Food Programme (WFP), adding that these rations are not proportionate to the food needs of families.
“I thank WFP, but during normal days, such food ration would be supplemented with other grains bought using proceeds from animal sale. It is not the case now,” the Kaabong District chairperson says.

Illegal markets
A clan elder in Kotido Sub-county, Mr Joel Lomongin, says some unscrupulous pastoralists have been prompted to set up illegal markets, which has increased tension in Karamoja, adding that stolen animals are always sold in these markets that are unknown to the district authorities.
He adds that this has left the community at crossroads of both veterinary and law enforcement officers.

Mr John Dengel, a pastoralist in Nadunget, Moroto District, says ever since the quarantine caused by the foot and mouth disease was imposed, vaccination exercises have not been done.
Mr Fredrick Eladu, the Kaabong District Veterinary Officer, told Daily Monitor that vaccination was completed a week ago, adding that as veterinary officer, all they are waiting for are officers from the diagnostic department from Entebbe to carry out zero surveillance.
Mr Eladu adds that even though the quarantine gets lifted, the other hurdle standing in the way of pastoralists will be the closed markets.
“For the time we have been in this double quarantine, pastoralists have been selling chicken, charcoal,” he says.

Mr Eladu says a great deal of livelihood among pastoralists has been lost, adding that the outcome in the next few weeks from the diagnostic team at Entebbe will inform when FMD will be lifted by the commissioner-in-charge of animal health.
He adds that FMD is a contagious viral disease, which affects animals which have divided hooves, and severely affects production of livestock.
Mr Robert Kennedy Okuda, the production officer in Kotido, says the ministry delivered limited vaccines to the tune of only 10,000 doses against 5,578,000 head of cattle in Kotido alone.
“It means we only vaccinated 0.5 per cent of animals in the entire Kotido,” he adds.
Mr Okuda says because of delayed vaccination, pastoralists in protest started setting up illegal cattle markets, which law enforcement officers have clamped down, and animals sold in such settings have been confiscated and sold locally upon our advice as technical officers.

In Kazo District, there are seven monthly cattle markets, some operating once a month and others twice, each giving the district Shs8 million every financial year which translates into Shs56 million.
Livestock and general merchandise markets have been closed for five months now, which has rendered the district short of money.
“Local revenue finances 14 per cent of the district budget; this means we have to adjust the budget because there is no compensation. Trading licence collections are very low; shops and other businesses in trading centres have been closed,” Mr Laban Kanyohora, the Kazo interim vice chairperson, said on Monday.

He added: “We hope the central government will find a way of covering this shortfall. It should consider giving us money to compensate for the revenue we have lost.”
The chairperson of Butuku Cattle Marketing Cooperative Society in Ntoroko District, Mr Charles Kasoro, says the situation is very difficult for them because selling cattle is their only income generating activity. He adds that cattle markets are vital for their survival.

“We do not dig, so if we cannot sell our cattle, we cannot get food,” Mr Kasoro says.
“We have been selling our cows to the neighbouring districts of Bundibugyo and Kabarole and in return, they also sell us food; but now we are stuck,” he says.
He adds that although there is food in the market, they have no money to buy it.
Mr Kasoro wants the President to consider opening cattle markets to allow Ntoroko people to resume their earnings.
“We can manage separating food and cattle if the President considers reopening our markets. We are ready to adhere to all measures,” Mr Kasoro says.

Protests
In Sembabule, quarantine has been in force since August 7, 2019.
This forced Lwemiyaga County legislator Theodore Ssekikubo to mobilise farmers to defy quarantine restrictions and this led to his arrest in January.
But a July 7 letter by the commissioner of Animal Health, Ms Anna Rose Ademun, lifted quarantine restrictions which brought excitement among livestock farmers in the affected sub-counties of Mitima and Lugusulu.

“The purpose of this communication is, therefore to inform you that the quarantine restrictions imposed on have been lifted,” Ms Ademun’s letter reads in part.
Although the quarantine was lifted, farmers still cannot sell their animals since cattle markets are closed as one of the measures to curb spread of coronavirus.
Mr Ezekiel Gumisiriza, a cattle farmer in Kabukongote Village, Malongo Sub-county in Sembabule District, says due to coronavirus restrictions middlemen are taking advantage of farmers.

Mr Robert Kanyete, the chairperson of Nyekundiri Farmers Association in Kyalulangira Sub-county, Rakai District, said the lock down has greatly affected farmers since cattle dealers no longer come.
“Cattle dealers come from Kampala, Masaka and other urban areas, but since Rakai District is among border districts and public transport is still restricted, farmers have no one to buy,” he said
In Lyantonde, Mr Fred Muhangi, the district chairperson, said although the quarantine has been lifted in the area, farmers still have to wait for the government to reopen cattle markets.

“People are free to sell their animals from the farms provided they can observe social distancing,” he said.
In Nakasongola, Mr Sam Kigula, the district chairperson, says the unending quarantine status that covers 80 per cent of the district continues to cripple the different development and service delivery sectors that depend on the local revenue resource envelope from the livestock industry.

“Nakasongola was hit hard. We had anticipated that the sub-counties of Nabiswera, Wabinyonyonyi and Nakitoma could have a partial lifting of the cattle quarantine but it has not been possible,” he adds.
The district local revenue resource envelope has dropped to the lowest in the past three years.
“We now post an estimated Shs150m unlike the years before the cattle quarantine when the district registered Shs400m,” Mr Kigula told the Daily Monitor.

Vaccination
Authorities respond. Dr Robert Ojala, the regional veterinary inspector for Teso and Karamoja sub-regions, says the country has done vaccination, saying some of this vaccination was selectively done in areas with pronounced Foot and mouth disease.
He admits that in Kotido, the vaccine delivered was not commiserate to the numbers, and it is the reason that selective vaccination was carried out.
“For the case of Katakwi, Karamoja, a team of doctors from the diagnostic department from Entebbe are expected to carry out tests this week for zero surveillance, and when the tests come out negative, the commissioner in charge animal health will lift the quarantine,” Mr Ojala says.
He adds that although this lifting is anticipated, he is not sure how cattle keepers will sell their animals because the Covid-19 strain lives on.
Mr Ojala says he understands the anxiety among pastoralists and businessmen dealing in cattle, but they will have to wait a little longer to sell their products.

Compiled by Simon Peter Emwamu, Steven Ariong, Alfred Tumushabe, Scovia Atuhaire, Al-Malahdi Ssenkabirwa, Wilson Kutamba, Paul Ssekandi, Dan Wandera.

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Falling coffee prices, reduced output forecasts rattle Uganda farmers

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There has been a slump in international coffee prices and shipping costs in the last quarter of 2022

Uganda’s coffee industry is walking into a challenging 2023 defined by falling prices and diminished output forecasts following the recent dry spell that hit major growing areas.

While the sector enjoyed a boom between 2020 and 2022 – with surging coffee prices, rising export volumes and considerable incomes for farmers – decline in international shipping costs and improved production forecasts in Brazil triggered a slump in coffee prices in the last quarter of 2022, according to industry players.

International shipping costs dropped from record highs of $10,000 per container charged on certain sea routes in January 2022 to less than $2,000. Shipping fees charged per 20-foot container ferried from Indonesia to North America, for example, are estimated at $800-$1,000 currently.

Consequently, local and international coffee prices have dropped since October 2022.

International robusta coffee prices fell from an average price of $2,400 per tonne to $1,856 per tonne towards the end of last year, according to industry data. Local robusta coffee prices declined from Ush7,200 ($1.9) per kilogramme to Ush5,800 ($1.6) per kilogramme during the second half of 2022 while Arabica coffee prices fell from Ush11,000 ($2.9) per kilogramme to Ush8,000 ($2) per kilogramme in the period.

In 2021, average coffee prices stood at more than Ush15,000 ($4) per kilogramme.

Dry spell

Robusta coffee production accounts for more than 60 percent of Uganda’s overall coffee output.

Besides gloomy coffee price forecasts for 2023, a severe dry spell in the past six months could pose a huge threat to coffee production levels. The weather affected major coffee-growing areas like the Central region and risks cutting this year’s output to around 5.5 million bags, industry players forecast.

“Brazil and Vietnam are headed for a bumper coffee harvest this year while India and Indonesia have discounted their local coffee prices in a way that has undercut Uganda’s growth momentum on the international market,” said Robert Byaruhanga, chief executive of local exporter Funzo Coffee Ltd.

Post-Covid shift

Asian and Latin American coffee exporters are regaining dominance in European and North American markets after the lockdown period because of the lower coffee prices, reduced freight charges, shorter port clearance turnaround times and reasonable coffee quality grades, Byaruhanga explained.

Ugandan farmers are now holding onto their coffee produce in anticipation of better prices.

Overall coffee exports stood at 6.26 million bags valued at $862.28 million in 2021/22 compared to 6.08 million bags worth $559.16 million registered in 2020/21, data from the Uganda Coffee Development Authority shows.

An estimated 447,162. 60 kilogramme bags of coffee valued at $64.1 million were exported in November 2022 at an average price of $2.39 per kilogramme — 6 US cents lower than the average price of $2.45 per kilogramme posted in October 2022.

Original Source: Daily Monitor

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Over 40 goats die of PPR disease in Madi-Okollo

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At least 43 goats have died of Peste des Petits Ruminants (PPR) disease, also known as ‘goat plague’ and several others are undergoing treatment in Madi-Okollo district.

Madi-Okollo district veterinary officer, Dr Charles Onzima, says the viral disease, which is related to rinderpest in sheep as well as goats, has claimed the lives of goats in Olali parish in Ogoko sub-county.

He adds that PPR disease was confirmed in the district after 500 local and 94 Boer goats were supplied to families in Olali parish under a poverty eradication programme that he suspects infected the local goats.

43 of the boar goats died while 10 of the local goats of the communities also died of PPR disease.

Onzima says immediately after receiving information about the disease, the veterinary officers got the goats manifesting the signs of PPR that include sudden onset of depression, fever, discharge from the eyes and nose, sores in the mouth, breathing difficulty and death among others.

He says that they have already had three rounds of vaccination for the available goats in the affected area.

Original Source: New Vision Via harvestmoney.co.ug

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Artisanal gold miners defy government on mercury use

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In October, President Museveni signed into the law the Mining and Minerals Act 2022. One of the key provisions in the law is the banning of mercury use in mining activities.

Artisanal and small scale gold miners in Uganda use mercury to separate gold from the ores, a method they say is cost effective, fast and easy to use. During this process, mercury is mixed with gold containing materials to form a mercury gold amalgam which is then heated to obtain the gold from the sediments.

The miners do the processing without wearing any personal protective gear. However, different Non- Government and Civil Society Organizations have over the years warned these miners against using mercury as it poses serious health threats to human life and dangerous to the environment.

But even with the government banning the use of mercury and several warning about the dangers it imposes, gold miners are not yet ready to stop using the substance especially since the government is not providing any viable alternative method they can use.

In Tiira mining site, Tiira town council, Busia district, gold miners expressed their concerns on this ban. Stephen Engidhoh, the Eastern Uganda chairman of Uganda Association of Artisanal and Small Scale Mining (UGAASM) said that mining has created jobs for over 30,000 people in Busia alone and with the government ban on use of mercury, many of them are likely to remain jobless.

He noted that in every sub county in Busia district, there are people during the exploration of minerals but the large gold discoveries here should not be an excuse to eliminate the small-scale miners from the mining sector because these minerals belong to all of them and it where they make a living from.

He added that if government wants this directive to be implemented, it should enforce it gradually and after finding an alternative method the miners can use.

“Government should first sensitize the miners about the dangers of using mercury before eliminating it. By government coming to abruptly ban the use of mercury, it is already creating indirect employment for smugglers to smuggle it into the country than they think they are eliminating,” Engidoh said.

Paul Angesu, the chairman on Tiira Landlords and Artisanal Miners Association said that even though they have been told that mercury is dangerous, for all the years they have used, they have never seen anyone experiencing the danger they say it causes.

“The government still needs to carry out thorough investigations on the possible dangers of using mercury so that it presents to the local miners with practical evidence that indeed mercury is dangerous and this will make us to easily stop using it,” Angesu said.

He added that sometime back, the Uganda National Association of Community and Occupational Health (UNACOH) came and took samples of mercury from the miners but they were not able to submit in the feedback for them to know if indeed they are indeed being affected by mercury.

An alternative gold extraction method which has been suggested to the artisanal gold miners is the use of borax method’ a technique of artisanal gold mining which use borax (a chemical compound) as a flux to purify gold. However, the miners say the government has not taken the initiative of introducing this method to them and training them on how to use it.

“They want us to use borax as an alternative to mercury but most of us don’t even know how borax looks like or even how it works. How do they expect us to start using something they have never taken the initiative to introduce to us?” Angesu asked.

Ramadhan Birenge, a gold miner in Namayingo district has tried using borax before after an NGO brought a sample of it to them. He however said that there is no any another way a miner can use to get gold clearly and quickly other than using mercury.

“The borax they are telling us to use is very expensive and not easily accessible to us, we don’t even know where it is sold and to get gold through using borax is a very long process yet mercury is a very easy, shorter process and relatively cheap.”

John Bosco Bukya, the chairman of Uganda Artisanal Miners Association told The Observer that they are law abiding citizens and since they have tested the consequences of operating in irregularities, they have no big problem with banning of mercury use in mining areas.

But however, before government bans it, it should provide the miners with an alternative processing reagent. He noted that government may not succeed with the ban and not because the miners don’t want to stop using mercury, but because the available alternatives must be effective, efficient and affordable.

“We don’t know anything about the borax method which they say can be an alternative. We don’t know where it is manufactured from, neither its cost or effectiveness. Government should first train the miners of an alternative method, test its effectiveness and efficiency before banning the method currently being used. If it is more efficient, definitely miners will stop using mercury,” Bukya said.

He also advised government to first sensitize these miners about the dangers of mercury before enforcing it and then phase it out gradually and not immediately because it is going to affect the livelihoods of Ugandans who are in this sector and yet it is the responsibility of government to make sure that all Ugandans thrive in their businesses.

Mercury is smuggled into Uganda through the porous borders with Kenya by cartels which makes its trade illegal. It is then discreetly sold to artisanal miners in Busia with a Kg costing between Shs 600,000 to Shs 1 million.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), exposure to mercury, even small amounts may have toxic effects on the nervous, digestive and immune systems and on lungs, kidneys, skin and eyes as well as pose a threat to the development of the child in the womb for pregnant women.

Most of these ailments manifest over time. People who burn the gold usually take in large doses of mercury because they directly inhale the metals but those who may get it after eating food or drinking water that is contaminated with mercury take it in slowly and it accumulates over time.

Mercury also contaminates the soil making it infertile and unable to support agriculture, water and air. Mercury emitted to the air can also circulate around and contaminate water, fish and wildlife far from the mine from which it was released which affects the biodiversity.

Original Source: The Observer

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