Cattle tracking in Botswana
Botswana using digital bolus to trace stolen cattle
In the last two years alone, Botswana has significantly reduced incidences of cattle thefts by at least 60%, the Peace Bulletin can now authoritatively reveal.
In a recent visit to Botswana's Livestock Identification and Trace-Back System (LITS) project that is implemented by the Department of Animal Production, Ministry of Agriculture, ITDGPractical Action EA team found out that the use of the digital animal Identification system has reduced cases of livestock theft that had earlier threatened Botswana's lucrative EU beef export market.
The digital ID system uses Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology, which is safe, environmentally friendly, and tamperproof to identify individual livestock throughout the country.
The reticular bolus that the animal swallows contains a RFID microchip, which is coated by a very hard ceramic. The bolus has neither moving parts nor a battery and is inert, safe and does not react with stomach acids and enzymes.
"The bolus is technically superior to other micro chips such as injected micro-chip that is cheap but difficult to read, recover after slaughter and faces a likelihood of ban on their use by the EU in the coming years as it can easily find its way in the meat", observed Dr. Letshwenyo, the Deputy Director, Department of Animal Health.
The bolus system is also a complete departure from the traditional 'hot iron' branding and ear tagging that have little or none deterrent to cattle thieves.
Mr. Kedikilwe, the LITS project coordinator said "initially, farmers could fight over the ownership of stolen and recovered cattle. But with the introduction of digital ID for cattle, the Police with the help of Field Extension officers have recovered thousands of stolen livestock and identified their rightful owners. Incidences where two farmers dispute the ownership of a cow only for the Police to find out that none of them is the real owner of the cow have also abounded.
To safeguard the technology, the Botswana government has enacted legislation that requires that all cattle must be electronically identified before being slaughtered or sold to any other party. This has greatly eliminated commercialization of cattle rustling in Botwana.
And to bring the benefits of technology to pastoralists in Kenya, ITDGPractical Action EA is currently pilot testing the use of computer chips (the bolus type) to trace and individually identify livestock in Mandera district. This would involve designing a pilot database (read software) that can individually identify a livestock, its owner, district, movement permits, and vaccination records among a handful of other useful data.
The next trial phase would involve integrating the bolus system with satellite tracking technology using Global Positioning System (GPS) and Geographic Information System (GIS).
This latter phase provides a monumental effort in putting to rest cattle rustling menace (especially cross-border cattle thefts) for livestock would not only be individually and digitally identified but would also be traced to ascertain where it is at a given point in time.
Other than managing cattle records and deterring cattle thefts, the digital livestock identification system would also open up access to important livestock markets such as EU that has eluded the East African region for a long time.
The EU beef market regulation requires that imported beef be traceable from the export slaughter facilities to the individual animal from which the meat came from. This regulation was made in response to the mad cow and foot and mouth diseases outbreaks in Europe and other parts of the world.
|ITDGPractical Action-EA Peace Bulletin - September 2004|