Unam Programmes Will Help Fight FMD

The University of Namibia (Unam) has received praise for its two new study programmes – the Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine (BVM) Degree and Higher Diploma in Animal Health. The two programmes were launched at the Neudamm (Windhoek) and Katima Mulilo campuses respectively.

Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, John Mutorwa, commended Unam for the initiative, given the Zambezi Region’s susceptibility to foot-and-mouth disease (FMD). He added that the programmes are tailor-made for the FMD-prone region.

He made the remarks during his consultative meeting with animal health students and senior officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry in Katima Mulilo. According to Mutorwa, what is further commendable about the programmes is that they would help offset the shortage of animal health experts that has financially burdened government by having to send students abroad and employ expatriates. “For many years Namibia has depended on either sending its students for veterinary training abroad or employing expatriates. While it has helped, it has been a costly venture and more importantly unsustainable. The establishment of a Namibian veterinary school is the only way to develop home adapted Namibian solutions to Namibian veterinary problems,” he said.

Mutorwa, who lectured the fully packed auditorium on the value of education and even quoting former Tanzanian leader Julius Nyerere on the subject, encouraged students to study towards finding solutions that would eventually correct the imbalances between commercial and communal farmers.

“The improvement in agricultural output must extend to livestock farming in both communal and commercial areas. There’s a dual system comprised of a well organised commercial farming setting and disorganised communal subsistence farming. This is where you come in as students to correct this imbalance,” aised Mutorwa.

He noted the privatisation of communal land has failed because government felt doing so would deny ownership to the poor who make up a large percentage of Namibia’s population. “Communal land is becoming overcrowded due to rising human and animal populations. It’s land for everybody and you can’t have a title deed for communal land. Government has tried to solve the problem but it’s not an easy task. We have resolved to maintain the communal land setting because if we privatise it, it will affect the poor. Educated people must come up with a solution on how best we can develop our communal land to benefit our people,” stated Mutorwa.

Mutorwa commended expatriates for being at the forefront of addressing Namibia’s animal health issues, but urged new students to embrace the courses in order to find solutions to animal diseases in the region. “If it were not for the good relations we have with other countries particularly in SADC, we would have been in big trouble. The bulk of our veterinarians come from countries such as Zambia and Zimbabwe. We should applaud these countries. However, in future answers must come from us to contain FMD in the Zambezi Region,” recommended Mutorwa.

He reiterated his ministry’s commitment to strengthening cooperation with Unam particularly in research, adding that the cooperation can be attested to by the Kalimbeza rice project. “MAWF (Mininstry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry) will seek to strengthen closer cooperation with Unam in areas of research, which is an important component of development as it was done with the successful Kalimbeza national rice project,” he said.

The director of the Katima campus, Dr Bennet Kangumu, said the study programmes were requested by the regional authorities when the Unam vice-chancellor Profesor Lazarus Hangula visited the region last year.

Source : New Era