By Faith Chimutsa
GOVERNMENT has successfully cleared tsetse flies in all settlement areas and reduced their existence in wildlife areas by over 90 percent.
In line with the National Development Strategy (NDS1), the Government is aiming to be declared a tsetse free nation by the World Health Organisation in 2024.
Addressing journalists during a National Tsetse media tour, National Director for Tsetse Control Services department, Dr William Shereni said they were making endless efforts to make sure that all farming and settled areas continue under monitoring to avoid re-invasion at the same time moving to clear tsetse in wildlife areas.
“At Independence 55 000 square kilometres were tsetse-infested and inhabitable by both human & livestock, however with the implementation on NDS1 by the Second Republic we have successfully reduced this area to 4 500km2.
“If we have achieved this so much in a short space of time, it means there are no excuses for not assuring a tsetse-free nation by 2024,” said Dr Shereni.
Tsetse fly refers to a fly of the genus Glossina, native to Africa, that feeds on human and animal blood; known primarily as a carrier of parasitic trypanosomes.
In Zimbabwe, there are two species known as Glossina pallidipes and Glossina morsitans-more commonly known as tsetse flies.
“They are the carriers of the parasites that cause nagana, a wasting disease similar to human sleeping sickness which is transmitted when they bite animals to feed on their blood.
“Many cattle die of the disease, while many more have spontaneous abortions or their production of milk suffers. The disease also makes them too weak to be used for ploughing or transport,” said Dr Shereni.
Decades ago, tsetse flies were present at very high levels in the Zambezi Valley areas.
The impact was severe.
“Farmers had to buy costly medicine to prevent the infected animals from dying. Arable land was being wasted, farmers were losing money, and there was less work available for labourers.
“In addition, there was a chronic lack of dairy and meat products to eat and sell,” said Dr Shereni.
All this began to change in 2009, when the Government-run Southern Tsetse Eradication Project (STEP), with the support of the IAEA, started to carry out intensive activities to suppress the tsetse fly population.
These include the spraying of pesticides, treating the backs of cattle with insecticides, frequent dipping, and erecting targets that attract and then kill the wild flies.
Dr Shereni said the fly population is now down by more than 90 per cent and farmers are now able to rear animals and produce more in their fields with the use of animal-drawn ploughs for easy labour.
“In the past, my cows were very weak and were dying, so I couldn’t farm. Even the medicine I had to buy privately wasn’t working as the disease is so severe,” says one farmer, Mr Justin Matambo.
In the recent presentation to the media by the Permanent Secretary for Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Dr John Basera, the Government has made great strides in improving human lives and rural productivity through tsetse control initiatives.
“Tsetse control is a success story in Zimbabwe as Gokwe north, Kariba, Hurungwe and Mbire districts have been erected with odour-baited targets to deal with possible remaining few flies and ensure no re-invasion.,” said Dr Basera.
He said direct aggregate losses due to animal trypanosomiasis may exceed US$1,3 billion annually .
“Tsetse has a negative economic impact and we have started this year to do 3000 square kilometres and are left with 1 500 which we will start working on at the beginning of next year. By the end of the year, we expect that all the farming areas will be free of tsetse flies.
“With the elimination of tsetse farmers can freely do their farming without the constraints of treating animals with drugs,” he said.