By Judith Sibanda
Livestock breeders have bemoaned the massive cattle deaths which continue to succumb to tick-borne and lump skin diseases with an estimated 55 000 cattle having died countrywide this year.
Little Beatrice Brahman breeder Morgan Sibanda said the situation was being aggravated by exorbitant prices of vaccines and stock feed which is only accessible on the black market in foreign currency.
“Tick-borne and lump skin diseases are wreaking havoc in rural areas, and even in our farms and accessing vaccines has become even harder as many people are selling it on the streets in foreign currency,” said Sibanda.
“During the dollarisation period, an average 50Kg of stock feed was $6 and then came bond notes it jumped to $13 and later on when the multi-currency system was banned one bag is now averaging $17and if we go to the manufacturers they tell us that they sell on order and they don’t have inputs and we are kept on the waiting list for good so it is for that reason why our cattle are dying in large numbers.”
Patson Zhou, a cattle breeder from Masvingo said he lost 12 beasts due to a critical shortage of vaccines.
“We are forced to buy vaccines on the black market and most of these people we buy from are government officials who would have sourced the vaccines at cheaper prices and sell to us at exorbitant prices,” he said.
Nketa legislator Phelela Masuku who is also in the Agriculture and Livestock Committee in parliament lamented lack of medicine to vaccinate livestock against prevalent diseases but said the government did not have enough funding to counter the crisis.
“Yes there is drought, but we have gathered that most of these cattle are succumbing to diseases because there is no medicine for dipping these herds against infections and ticks. Breeders now have to rely on buying them from Botswana or the black market yet accessing foreign currency is impossible for many of them,” he said.
He said some cattle died as they travel long distances in search of water.
“The government has declared this as a disaster, but there is not enough funding to cater for disaster management of livestock whereby they should be assisting farmers for them to be able to buy feed and dosing medicine. Matabeleland North has lost an average of 2 600 whereas Matabeleland South lost 4 500 herds as of November statistics and countrywide, the estimate is 55 000.”
Sibanda expressed disappointment in the government’s alleged failure to revive the agricultural sector claiming that the schemes were designed to profit those in power and the ordinary farmers.
“Every time government puts up these drought relief programs like command cattle drought relief programme for vulnerable rural people, these schemes are only accessible by powerful people, so they are designed to be a looting vehicle for those who coin them under the guise of assisting the underprivileged,” he claimed.