|Livestock markets - By Muhle M Masuku|
|Saturday, 09 June 2012 19:10|
United we stand, divided we fall
MANY people use such catch phrases only during the time of war, but I can assure you even civilians ought to use such combative language in order to unite against profiteers.
Some people have mastered the art of predation: isolate and attack. Farmers have fallen victim to the same old system since time immemorial.I am told that the Zebra put their heads together and leave their beautiful behinds so invitingly bare. A menacing predator then launches an ill-timed attack, only to receive a bullet of a kick that leaves it paralysed. Surely, God gave us better brains than the zebra yet we cannot come together and defend our asset base. Singabe siqilwa sikhangele madoda.
You do not need a rocket scientist to tell you that the key is to be able to relate with your neighbours. Even the Bible says it nicely, love thy neighbour. I hear the same old question, “Masuku, I cannot send only one animal to the abattoir’’.
Definitely, that can be suicidal, only to a man who believes in minding his own business. If you opt to live in a cocoon, you tend to limit your options. Bantu, ukwanda kwaliwa ngabathakathi.
I see huge possibilities in the livestock sector in my mind’s eye. During my recent visit to rural Mangwe I managed to undress the ravaging drought and see a land of milk and honey. Israelites are living God’s promise, having turned the desert into productive land. What makes us this impotent is the failure to learn; in fact, those in the know will tell you that people who repeat the same mistake are stupid.
Lack of clean water in farming areas is very serious. White farmers came into virgin lands and managed to live extremely well in the drier parts of the country. We can do well too. However, there are some serious considerations to make. Let us leave the Government alone because farmers have made numerous appeals for water and have received very little to smile about. Finance Minister Tendai Biti has said it over and over again that the Government has no money.
Farmers can come together and sink boreholes for their livestock. A livestock unit apiece for 10 farmers can do wonders for those who look so miserable and desperate at the moment. The Government hydrologists can help identify suitable sites as promised recently in Bulilima District; let us do the rest. There could be drought above the ground, but there are underground rivers and lakes. Asimanyaneni sigebhe imigodi yamanzi ezifuyo zethu.
Farmers should sell their livestock as organised groups. It is possible to send livestock to better paying markets. It is possible to use farmers’ unions to co-ordinate livestock groups for purposes of selling in profitable markets.
Today we have mobile phones that can be used to give market information to the remotest parts of the country. The farmers’ unions should help farmers to secure contracts with abattoirs and butcheries.
I see it as utter stupidity to just send animals to an abattoir that you did not talk to and hope to get a fair price. Farmers must get prior guarantees to receive a stated price.
Farmers are getting caught by the same old system. They hear of a price increase this week, bring so many cattle the following week, only to be told that the prices had just gone down that same day.
Dear Lord, farmers should learn to do business lest they eat humble pie every time.
By the way, farmers are not permitted to move their cattle once they get to the abattoir pens. That is a veterinary precaution against disease spread that has worked well for abattoir owners. You cannot take your animals back to the farm. Egxobe udaka inathile.
Farmers can also start setting permanent communal feeding pens to combat recurrent droughts and can use fattening pens. They can also set communal milking points and have bulk deliveries of up to 10 litres per day from local breed without endangering calves. Supplementary feeding can boost quantities significantly
I know we have lost one very important component needed for any entity to survive vulnerability: that is called social capital. Imperialism, politics and money has shredded our once revered networking, isintu sakithi. I believe we can regroup and resuscitate amasiso, ilima, lemvelo (culture).
That can start now. There is a need to engage the traditional leadership, farmers’ associations and local government to walk us through the seemingly insurmountable task ahead. Ehambela muva ibanjwa yizinja.
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