Cattle farmers hit by drug resistant ticks
Tom Muzoora gave up his profession in the city and returned to a village in western Uganda to pursue his passion: cattle rearing. Muzoora takes this passion after his father and grandfather who owned hundreds of heads of cattle. In this part of the country, rearing cattle in huge numbers is a norm, a sense of pride among the Banyankole tribemates. This norm is however threatened by a new type of drug resistant ticks which are a vector of the deadly East Coast Fever (ECF).
In the last several months Muzoora has lost 20 heads of cattle due to the disease that mainly targets exotic breeds. Muzoora is not alone, in the last one month, Peter Taremwa, another farmer has lost 18 animals due to the tick borne diseases. This is the same story shared by hundreds of farmers who are losing animals due to the drug resistant ticks that spread ECF, among other diseases. Figures from the Kiruhura district headquarters show that farmers in the district have lost over 3,000 cows in the last six months. Since the first outbreak of ticks was announced about six years ago, over 1.6 million heads of cattle have died in Kiruhura alone. DRUG RESISTANCE When the tick borne diseases broke out, farmers resorted to using several drugs at the same time to protect their animals and reduce the big number of deaths. This however had negative effects because it made the ticks become more resistant to the drugs, according to experts. Alfred Chepkurui, acting District Veterinary Officer Kiruhura warned that caution has to be taken because the disease transmitting ticks can be spread to other parts of the country. “All the farms are affected, whatever farm you go to, you find ticks that are resistant. We are selling animals and it is possible to spread the ticks to other parts of the country and elsewhere,” said Chepkurui. Some farmers also blame the resistance to the alleged fake drugs that are circulating on the market. Because of the increasing number of deaths, the farmers have also resorted to more desperate measures. They are making concoctions of drugs to save their animals. Some have argued that the concoctions have actually reduced the deaths on their farms. “I used not to believe that these concoctions work, but when you keep losing animals every day, you have no options. These concoctions have actually worked in some areas,” Muzoora said. Authorities are however cautioning against this, arguing that the concoctions may have longtime effects which may be passed on to humans through meat and dairy products. HOPE After years of hopelessness, government now says it may have the answer to the crisis. Joy Kabatsi, the minister of state in charge of animal husbandry last week told farmers at Kiruhura district headquarters that a drug from France would be tested on the farms. According to Chepkurui, two farmers would be selected per parish. These farmers would then use the drug for a period of time and if found to be effective, then it would be rolled out to other farmers. For now the farmers wait in anticipation for the savior drug.
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