THE dry season is upon us and our livestock is beginning to feel the heat literally and figuratively.
I witnessed a herd of about 600 cattle stampeding for water at a community borehole which also serves human beings.
The sheer numbers of livestock around the clearly overwhelmed borehole is causing serious soil degradation due to the massive numbers of hooves trampling around a small area.
The task of pumping the water into the drinking troughs is in itself labourious considering the size of the herd.
Huge numbers of animals which are being watered at such a drinking point means the borehole is pumping throughout the whole day.
While this is a situation I witnessed in a ward in Hwange district, I am aware that such situations prevail in most of our communal areas in Matabeleland region where there are hardly any perennial rivers and water sources are far and wide.
In Nkayi district, animals in such areas as Mkhalathi compete for drinking water with human beings from the few available boreholes. This also happens in Bulilima district in areas such as Khame.
These boreholes are at least efficient enough in terms of yield and they are usually able to cope with both human and livestock demand for water.
However, it is the laborious way of pumping water into the watering troughs that needs to be improved. In this day and age of solar powered inventions it is a misnomer for the district leadership to just sit and watch people suffer when there are more easier and efficient ways.
I know that the usual knee-jerk reaction of most lazy thinkers occupying some of the officials is that there are not enough resources.
This is said almost with impulse faster than blinking. However, I am convinced that extension offices and local authorities can do more in assisting communal farmers to have better water reticulation systems for their animals.
Honestly how much does it cost to sink a submersible pump into the borehole, power it with solar energy to pump into a 5 000-litre Jojo tank and then a tap feeds a drinking trough? My investigations tell me that something around $6 000 can be enough to set up such a system especially if there are no batteries required but merely pumping during the day into the tank. Now some dip tanks have livestock censuses of around 2000 animals and this translates to $3/animal if farmers are made to contribute on animal owned basis.
The $3 contribution can even be reduced further if those households which have no cattle but are drinking from the same borehole are made to contribute something as well.
My point is that communities have the numbers to spread this seemly big cost thinly among themselves to levels where the cost figures can be manageable or even insignificant.
All that is needed is leadership in executing such community self- financing schemes.
I do not see anything wrong or impossible with Government departments such as Department of Livestock and the Department of Veterinary Services mobilising farmers around a certain dip tank or borehole to contribute towards such a scheme which will make it much easier for them to water their animals as well as getting water for domestic use.
Instead of such departments reducing themselves to levy collectors and prohibition enforcers they also need to be enablers and champions of farmer leadership.
It is my contention that extension officers should be nudged towards helping farmers to help themselves. Most of these projects that seem to have prohibitive costs can be easily self- financed by community members if they use economies of scale.
It is time to change settings so that we can change those of our farmers. We need to have more approaches that make smallholder communal farmers realise and believe that they can do it on their own.
I honestly believe that if community members can be rallied around a cause such as building a school or clinic they can also be mobilised for project such as water reticulation for their animals and themselves. Honestly imagine manually pumping water into a drinking trough to serve 50 animals, it’s not an easy task. Let’s help our smallholder farmers to help themselves. Uyabonga umntaMaKhumalo.
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