Better vet services for rural areas

Friday, March 4, 2011

Cape Town - The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has taken steps to improve the shortage of veterinarians in rural areas.

This emerged in a written reply following a query in the National Assembly by the Congress of the People (COPE).

COPE's question comes as the country faces a Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak in northern KwaZulu-Natal, which has in the main affected rural farmers.

The minister responsible for the department, Tina Joemat-Pettersson, said that veterinary services played a critical role in ensuring animal health and food security.

"This in turn supports food security, agricultural economic growth and agricultural risk management. The department ... has developed short and medium term interventions to improve delivery of veterinarian services," she said.

In the short term, she said that they had introduced compulsory community service programme for newly qualified veterinarians focused on rural areas and were negotiating with other countries for the training of these professionals.

In the medium term, Joemat-Pettersson said that they would look into the expansion of the bursary scheme for the training of veterinarians, which started seven years ago.

Since the inception of the scheme, 54 deserving young people were awarded bursaries to study Bachelor of Veterinary Science (BVSc) at the University of Pretoria.

Joemat-Pettersson said they would transform the faculty of Veterinary Science at Onderstepoort - University of Pretoria - and were considering having another faculty at another higher learning institute.

Equipping animal health technicians to ensure the delivery of basic service and finalising a policy on the provision of public veterinary services was on the cards, she said. - BuaNews