The ecology of 'Maswafu', political, social and environmental influence upon the development of contagious bovine pleuropneumonia in the Western Province of Zambia during the twentieth century

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Maswafu is a major disease threat to the cattle herd which is the basis of traditional economy in the Western Province of Zambia /formerly Barotseland/. This disease remains endemic in Angola, and twice in this century major outbreaks have occurred in Zambia's Western Province causing cattle losses and other costs to the nation which in total have exceeded U.S. Dollar 100 m. Introduction of the disease was controlled by the pre-colonial Lozi state through a prohibition on cattle trade to the west, and by the creation of a cattle free zone on the state's western border. Political reorganization of this area in the late 19th century, and specifically the demarcation of the new political boundary in 1915 caused the first major outbreak of maswafu in the area in this century. Political conflict associated with the independence movement in Angola, and particularly the extensive refugee movements into Zambia during the late 1960s led to a second outbreak of the disease in 1970. On both occasions the disease spread rapidly. This was the result of several factors. In both 1915 and 1970 the political situation led to a slow response by the authorities. Traditional animal husbandry practices create conditions which are favourable for a rapid transmission of the disease. Widespread diffusion of the disease is facilitated by the extensive cattle mobility which occurs in this area partly as a result of the ecological contrasts in the grazing resources and partly because of the extensive social obligations which cattle fulfill through the mafissa system. The continuing conflict in Angola has created conditions which have reduced the threat of maswafu being introduced into Zambia. However these political conditions combined with the present economic situation in Zambia have made it increasingly difficult from a political point of view to maintain the present disease control measures along the Angolan border.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)204-205
Number of pages2
JournalGeographia Medica
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1985
Externally publishedYes


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