Farmers in Matabeleland South province are calling for permanent drought relief programmes for livestock to avoid annual cattle losses.
This comes at a time when the livestock situation has worsened in the drought-prone province with about 5 000 cattle having been wiped out, while farmers await significant rains to boost their pastures.
Compared to last year, the figure represents nearly 500 percent increase as by the same time in 2018, Matabeleland South had only recorded 1 000 cattle deaths.
Formerly known as the Brazil of Zimbabwe, because of producing quality beef, Matabeleland South, now has a herd of only 658 518 cattle.
According to the Department of Livestock and Veterinary Services in Matabeleland South, 4 539 cattle have died with the most affected district being Beitbridge where 1 057 cattle have since succumbed to drought.
The shocking statistics indicate that Insiza has to date lost 918 cattle Gwanda 600, Matobo, 524, Mangwe 498 and Umzingwane 330.
More cattle could have succumbed to the devastating drought as official figures are for reported incidents only.
Mangwe Farmers Association member, Clement Malaba, told CITE it was high time the government came up with drought relief programmes for livestock to avoid future cattle losses.
“We appreciate the fact that the government saw the need to come up with drought mitigation programmes for people, but they seem to be blind to the fact that drought does not only affect people but livestock as well,” he said.
“We therefore call upon the government to come up with drought relief programmes for animals as well. Our cattle have almost been wiped-out by the drought and the government has not come up with anything to assist us.”
Malaba challenged the government to budget for drought relief stock feeds and livestock supplementary feeding.
“This issue of fire-fighting by the government as if drought is something new every year does not help at all,” said Malaba.
He said the feedlots opened in the district in 2012 were also lying idle owing to the scarcity of stock feed and their exorbitant prices.
Malaba said while the government’s livestock command agriculture programme benefited a few politically-connected farmers, all that was going to waste as cattle were succumbing to the devastating drought.
“Those cattle (command agriculture heifers) are dying as well because they have nothing to eat,” said Malaba.
He added it was regrettable that even if it rained it would take some weeks before pastures improved adding farmers would still continue to lose their livestock for a while.
Another farmer, Jonathan Nsingo in Insiza said farmers were losing livestock almost on a daily basis with water sources having dried-up.
“They cannot even sell their livestock because buyers are not offering cash. They offer transfers which most farmers do not want to hear about,” said Nsingo.
He added stock feed remained one of their headaches in the face of a devastating drought.
Chief Nyangazonke of Matobo, recently told CITE it was disheartening to note that the drought had become a yearly occurrence, adding more needed to be done to combat it in future.
“Is it because we are failing to manage a yearly calendar, or what?” he queried.
“The cropping season is upon us but there are no signs to show that everything is ready. We want to see Agritex people on the ground, but things are not shaping up; they are not balancing. The Ministry of Agriculture should now be meeting with farmers.”
Farmers will struggle to restock unless the government intervenes.