The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Forestry, Fisheries and Bio-security (MALFFB) is concerned that some farmers engaged in the government’s cattle restocking program in Malampa, Penama and Torba provinces have slaughtered cattle they received under the program.
The cattle restocking program began in 2016 and its aim is to help improve the herds of smallholder cattle farmers and to help achieve the government’s goal of reaching 500,000 heads of cattle for the country in 2025 from the current number of 250,000 heads. And the program has reached all the provinces.
The media officer of the Department of Livestock, Alain Simeon, says Pentecost Island has the highest number of 17 heads of cattle killed and nine at Maewo both in Penama Province and nine also at Gaua Island in Torba Province. The same incident is also reported from Ambrym Island in Malampa Province.
Many of the cattle killed were reported to be either for financial gain or to meet cultural obligations.
Simeon confirmed that all those farmers involved have been summoned by the MALFFB to pay fines of Vt33,000 for a heifer killed and Vt43,000 for a bull. This is to cover part of the costs for the cattle from the suppliers on Santo, trucking to the wharf in Luganvlle and shipment to the islands.
Simeon said that next year farmers will receive free cattle under in the next phase of the program and it was advisable for those people summoned to pay their fines before November “because if they don’t their islands will not be listed a priority for the next stage of the program.”
“Under the new program, there will be three requirements for farmer’s eligibility – a fence with paddocks, good pasture, and water,” he explained.
“One more condition is that in five years, the farmer must give back the same number of heads received free to the government to expand the restocking program to cover other interested farmers.”
Simeon said that due to lack of awareness to the farmers involved in the restocking program, those involved in the killing of their cattle will not be required to pay at additional Vt100,000 in fines for breaking the ban on the killing of the heads of cattle supplied under the restocking program. This ban became effective on May 3, after it was signed by the Minister responsible for livestock, Matai Seremiah.
“Awareness on this ban is now being carried out in all the islands involved in the cattle restocking program and in future, any farmer who breaks the law will pay the fine and failure to do so, could land them in court,” he added.
“There is some very good news though,” he noted.
“On Maewo, a bull belonging to one farmer involved in the restocking program has produced 17 calves, and some cows with calves on the way.”
Senior Livestock Officer for the northern provinces of the country, Stevenson Boe, encourages farmers to continue to support the government’s cattle restocking program and warns against ignoring the awareness for farmers because if they break the ban on killing the cattle they will be liable for expensive fines.