Government to start acaricide zoning to address issues of tick-borne resistance

KIRUHURA – The government of Uganda is pushing for acaricide zoning to fight the tick-borne resistance that has greatly affected animal industry especially in the cattle corridor.

Through Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), the government will fast track a special drug to kill all the resistant ticks before embarking on acaricide zoning to solve the problem of tick resistance in the country.

According to Dr Anna Rose Ademun, the Commissioner Animal Health in the Ministry of Animal Husbandry, government is looking forward to creating zones in all the four regions of Uganda to guide farmers on which acaricides to administer to their animals.

Ademun said this over the weekend while presiding over the farmer’s parliament held in Sanga Town Council Kiruhura district.

Farmers’ parliament is a regional forum which was recently launched by farmers in November 2021 to discuss and seek redress about the issues affecting farmers in Western Region.

During the meeting, most farmers were furious with National Drug Authority (NDA) claiming that it has not provided a solution to their animals that have continued to die because of tick resistance against alleged fake acaricides.

“NDA has totally failed to block fake acaricides on market, a reason as to why some of us have resorted to the use of agrichemicals. I will not continue seeing my animals die when I have not provided any solution,” Steven Kakuru, a farmer in Kiruhura bitterly said.

The commissioner blamed tick resistance on existing organisms which is part of the evolution aspect.

“Use of a single acaricide for so many years has led to exposure of the ticks to all the acaricide molecules. Ticks by nature develop resistance towards the drugs because they have an internal system within their genes which fights back. So, these type of rotation is now going to fight tick resistance,” Dr Ademun said.

She however, comforted farmers that the government has already approved funds of importing eprinomectin, a special acaricide to kill Rhipicephalus (Boophilus), which is the most devastating tick species that has resisted most acaricides in Uganda.

“In 2019, we tested all the acaricides we had on the market to find out whether the drugs are able to kill the drug resistant ticks. We also found that there is boophilus (fat tick), the most resistant tick in the population of ticks that are in our community which is really a glaring problem,” Ademun said.

“And we have also found that there is a drug which is not registered in our country called eprinomectin and we have already requested Cabinet to provide funding to be able to cleanse off the resistant tick,” she added.

“Since the government has already approved funds to procure that drug in bulk, we will start by using eprinomectin as an acaricide to kill off the resistant ticks. Then after, we shall roll out a cleansing exercise to eradicate resistant ticks,” Ademun emphasized.

She says, the Ministry is only waiting for the government to release funds to embark on the acaricide zoning exercise that exposes the ticks to one molecule.

Dr Ademun appealed to the farmers to welcome the zoning program when it rolls out massively in the country.

“Unless we work as a team and work at the zone level, whereby government should guide which acaricides to use, we are really going to fall into a mess. So, we have asked the farmers to welcome the idea of acaricide zoning because our nation is greatly surviving on agriculture,” said the Commissioner.

Dr Ademun also advised NDA officials and farmers to stop the blame game attitude but rather focus on addressing the tick related challenges on farms.

“This is a value chain of acaricides which covers the manufacturer up to the user at the farm. Therefore, the challenges in acaricides originates either from the manufacturer, importation distribution or at user level meaning that if the acaricide is not working; either it was not manufactured well, imported well, tested well or the farmer is also not doing his work at the farm,” she said.

However, Safari Magyezi, a livestock farmer who also doubles as the Mayor Sanga Town Council, insisted that farmers have followed the acaricide prescriptions but ticks have failed to die.

“Do you want to tell us that all the livestock farmers have failed to follow the drug prescriptions while mixing the acaricides? How come in the 1980s we had an acaricide called gamatox which we would use to spray the cattle and spend 15 days without seeing any tick?” Magyezi asked

Florence Bahikire, another Dairy farmer hailing from Kiruhura district encouraged the government to autonomously handle the business of acaricides to protect farmers from alleged fake products.

“How I wish that the government would take over the autonomy of managing and selling drugs to the farmers from one stock point rather than having so many private drug outlets selling different products including counterfeit acaricides,” Bahikire emphasized.

Abiaz Rwamwiri, the Public Relations Manager of National Drug Authority, appealed to the government to consider having a national drug store for proper vet drug distribution chains.

“The government needs to consider having a national drug store equivalent to National Medical Stores that brings in veterinary drugs and distributes through a proper supply chain upto local units like sub-counties where a farmer can be able to pay for the animal drugs at a subsidized price,” Rwamwiri explained.

He also asked farmers to stop using agrichemicals on their animals which contaminates the milk and meat products thus affecting the export market.

“Most cows have gone blind and research has also shown that such agrichemicals directly mix with milk which has greatly affected the quality and standard of Uganda’s animal products to compete in the international market,” Rwamwiri said.

Currently, agriculture employs about 70% of the population of Uganda and the livestock sector contributes about 3.3 % of the National Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

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