BULAWAYO — The ongoing drought is turning out to be a major setback for the country’s national herd restocking efforts.
Having already killed more than 7 000 cattle in Masvingo, Matabeleland and Midlands, this year’s drought brings back sad memories of the 1991/92 drought when Zimbabwe lost nearly a million cattle.
The national cattle herd, which has been declining over the years, is now estimated at five million, an indication that restocking remains vital if Zimbabwe is to be called a cattle-producing nation once more.
The prevailing dry climatic conditions across southern Africa are making it difficult for Zimbabwe to restock owing to successive droughts for that past few farming seasons.
Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union national livestock chairperson, Irene Maphenduka, told the Financial Gazette this week that despite recurrent droughts, restocking was still a necessity especially in the Matabeleland region, which used to boast of millions of cattle before and during the early 1980s.
“We still need to restock especially here in Matabeleland because there are some areas such as Nyamandlovu, Bubi and parts of Nkayi which are not that much affected by drought and have grass and good pastures,” said Maphenduka.
“There are also farmers whose farms are under-utilised, therefore should the restocking exercise begin some heifers could be taken to those farms,” he added.
Despite the drought, farmers were not being encouraged to destock, but to sell just a few livestock and buy supplementary feeding, said Maphenduka, arguing that destocking would reduce the national cattle herd to unsustainably low levels.
“We know that the government does not have money, therefore we need investors to come and partner us,” said Maphenduka adding that farmers also needed assistance in drilling boreholes that would provide more water for cattle as well as to irrigate pastures.
Jonathan Nsingo, the director of Nyamazana Auctioneers, said it was high time government intervened in saving the few cattle that remain in Matabeleland South.
He said while restocking was important, priority should, however, be given to saving those that face starvation.
“Cattle have almost been wiped out in Matabeleland and heifers are needed to boost our numbers,” said Nsingo.
As a drought mitigation measure, the Food and Agriculture Organisation and World Vision-Zimbabwe are conducting a livestock mitigation programme targeting communal farmers in Matabeleland South, while in the Midlands government has embarked on a supplementary feeding programme through selling stock feed to farmers at subsidised prices.
Follow us on Twitter on @FingazLive and on Facebook – The Financial Gazette