By Vumani Mthiyane
About 300 000 cattle in Matabeleland South province are at risk of succumbing to the effects of the El Nino induced drought that has ravaged the province.
Some of the most affected districts in the province are Beitbridge, Gwanda, Matobo, Bulilima and Mangwe.
Presenting a report on the livestock and crop situation during a drought relief meeting held at Governor’s boardroom in Gwanda last week, a livestock specialist said the drought situation will have a negative impact on the livestock.
“The 2018/2019 rainy season was characterised by poor rainfall causing damage to crop and pastures. Cattle farmers are the worst affected due to poor pastures and inadequate water supplies,” said Zondani Muchemwa.
Muchemwa added that in Matabeleland South approximately 292 912 cattle were at risk of dying, out of a provincial herd of 658 518.
Gwanda is likely to lose about 79 232 cattle.
Over 74 percent of land area in the province is said to be under extreme drought and 97 percent under severe drought.
Furthermore, 85 percent of all pastures and rangeland is considered to be poor.
As a result crop failures and pasture losses are the two primary drivers of direct economic impacts of drought in the agricultural sector.
In the livestock sector, reduced pasture land requires farmers to resort commercial feeds or purchase hay from outside drought stricken areas which is more costly due to transportation and increased prices.
Stock feed now costs between RTGS55-66 per 50kg bag a situation that might force cattle farmers to destock.
“There is need to put in place drought mitigation strategies to avert these challenges. Also need for immediate implementation of livestock drought mitigation feeding and hay cutting programme in all districts in the province as they are equally affected.
“Beneficiaries of command livestock programme must be assisted with stock feed on a loan basis,” said Muchemwa.
Meanwhile, speaking at a different forum, Zinwa engineer Artwell Machaya indicated that the province has 21 chief dams with 7 of them being less than 50 percent and the other 14 are between 50 and 80 percent full.
The engineer added that the dams are carrying 409 606 mega litres of water aligned with storage budding of 716 000 mega litres.
He said stringent maintenance measures have been put in place to guarantee that water provisions last the province for the subsequent rainy season.
“The catchment area has seven major dams below 50 percent capacity and 14 others are between 50 and 88 percent.
“This simple means we have started the year with a deficit hence strict water conservation measures have to be put in place,” said the Eng. Machaya.