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Farmers in the Kunene and Omusati regions say non-functional abattoirs and poor livestock infrastructure are primary obstacles to accessing a profitable market. 

This issue surfaced during the ongoing oversight visits by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Economics and Public Administration in the Northern Communal Areas (NCAs).

The visits follow a 2022 petition to the National Assembly from Lisha Empowerment and Development, urging the revival of the livestock market in the NCAs and parliamentary intervention to address the sector's severe underdevelopment.

The petition calls for urgent action to rejuvenate the livestock market in the NCAs, with concerns about the market's decline into near extinction. 

Livestock quarantine facilities intended to assist farmers in managing and marketing their livestock in the Kunene Region are either non-functional or have been totally vandalised.

The quarantine facilities that were built by the government with assistance from the Millennium Challenge Account were inaugurated in 2000 to help farmers in the NCAs market their livestock and increase agricultural productivity. 

The facilities, which were initially operated by Meatco, stopped activities in 2014 following the loss of the South African market due to an outbreak of animal diseases.

In the Omusati Region, the Omutambo Maowe quarantine camp has also not been operational since Meatco's closure of its operations in 2015. 

The facility, which is over 30,000 hectares in size and divided into 31 camps, has not processed any cattle from the NCAs for slaughter in 10 years, except for the 75 state-owned cattle held for the purpose of testing quarantined animals for FMD and other animal diseases.

The dormancy of the facility, including the absence of an abattoir, has irked many farmers in the area, who feel that they are being deliberately sidelined in the marketing of their livestock. 

The lack of grazing area, exacerbated by a large tract of fenced quarantine land, has further resulted in conflict as farmers' animals scramble for limited grazing. 

Farmers have repeatedly appealed to be allowed to graze their animals in the quarantine camps, particularly during droughts. 

Farmers in the Oshana Region have also joined the growing chorus of condemnation against the cordon veterinary fence, which they say is discriminatory.

Following discussions with the Ministry of Agriculture, Water, and Forestry, it was revealed that the government is implementing infrastructure improvements, including constructing and upgrading abattoirs and meat processing plants in Katima Mulilo, Rundu, Oshakati, Eenhana, and Outapi.

In the Kunene Region, a contractor will soon upgrade the Opuwo slaughterhouse and Omutambo Maowe quarantine farm, serving farmers in Kunene, Omusati, and Oshana.

Meatco representative Timotheus Kativa said that there are plans to resume operations via commodity-based trade, buying livestock from Omusati region farmers for local quarantine before transporting them to Meatco's export abattoirs in Rundu and Katima Mulilo.

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Serafia Nadunya