Collective effort essential for livestock farmers

16 Jun, 2024 - 00:06 0 Views
Collective effort essential for livestock farmers

RECENTLY I was part of a group of livestock farmers who pooled together their resources and bought molasses directly from the source in Chiredzi. Molasses is a very important feed component for livestock during the dry season.

It provides an energy source for animals. Farmers will know that the two most important and limiting nutrients for livestock during the dry season are energy and protein, then you have minerals that are also important for your animals.

After realising that molasses might also become scarcely available and expensive this dry season because of the massively anticipated demand as farmers across the country try to supplement their animals following the El Nino-induced drought, a group of livestock farmers mostly based in the Matabeleland region decided to come together and source the commodity from the producer.

This instalment seeks to share lessons derived from this seemingly simple exercise yet not so easy. The first important lesson that I learned from the effort by farmers, is that, with collective effort, farmers can solve most of their production headaches. We managed as farmers to bring about 13 tonnes of molasses transported in individual farmer’s drums.

Thirteen tones is not a small quantity by any definition and very few individual livestock farmers can manage to procure and transport that to their destination on their own. We had to leverage on individual energies and consolidate that into one powerful procurement force.

Learning from this experience, I am more convinced than ever before that when farmers work together for a common purpose, they can easily achieve what they need.

It could be procurement of hay bales from regions that produce these in large and cheaper quantities like Mashonaland provinces, it could be procurement of commercial stock feed, be it locally or imported, it could be a presentation of a livestock farmer’s position on a very pertinent issue to the powers that be.

It can even be in addressing the livestock markets in general or the producer prices in particular, an issue that has remained thorny since the development of this value chain. We just need to work together, harness our energy into one potent quantum of force to leverage on.

The second lesson I learned was that farmers need leadership, in this particular incident one farmer had to commit himself and led the process, from engaging the producer in Chiredzi, getting quotations for the commodity, getting transport, collecting payments from individual farmers, making deposits to the company account for the commodity, up to making sure every farmer participating collected the commodity timeously on arrival.

This undoubtedly takes one’s time, but someone must do it if any action is to happen. Most farmers are happy to throw in the money and wait to collect the product. They are mostly not ready to take responsibility for all the processes in between.

I also learned that transparency and regular communication is important if farmers are to work together for any common purpose especially where money is involved. We were a group of about 26 farmers who did not know each other and a number of the farmers are in the diaspora.

It became important that any transaction or process be communicated clearly and on time, with supported evidence like receipts and deposit slips. This helped build confidence and trust among farmers who do not know each other and are working together for the first time.

Imagine a lot of scams going around and you have to go and hand US$600 to a stranger and trust that they will be honest and deliver. Another lesson provided by the experience for me was that things do not always go as planned especially regarding honouring commitments.

We registered 66 drums as the quantity needed by the farmers but when the time to pay came, only 44 drums were paid for. Farmers for the other 22 drums could not pay for one reason or another, in fact, others just went mute and never even provided an apology for not honouring the commitment they made.

They either have no idea of the kind of inconvenience they caused, or they simply do not care about that! Others of course had very genuine reasons for failing and these are the ones who had the decency to apologize to fellow group members for failing to pay when needed to.

The lesson is that you must be very sure and concrete about payments before you get any part moving, otherwise, you will be left with a very angry supplier as some farmers who previously registered a very loud interest, suddenly went mute.

Imagine if the arrangement was for the supplier to bring the commodity and farmers to pay on delivery, as the organiser leading the process, you might find yourself stuck with a delivered commodity but owners missing in action!

Lastly, I learned that livestock farmers are available and willing to work together to achieve their goals, but they need leadership for that to happen.

On a sad note, farmers allow me, on behalf of followers of this column and the livestock fraternity in general, to express sincere condolences for the sad loss of a giant in the livestock industry, Mr Christopher Androliakos owner of Heads and Hooves. What a good gentle guy he was, may his soul rest in eternal peace.

Uyabonga umntakaMaKhumalo.

Mhlupheki Dube is a livestock specialist and farmer. He writes in his own capacity. Feedback [email protected] cell 0772851275

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