Drying water sources now death traps for livestock

26 Nov, 2023 - 00:11 0 Views
Drying water sources now death traps for livestock Mr Kelvin Ndlovu and Mr Thabani Ndlovu who assisted in rescuing cattle at Hozalenditshi Dam

The Sunday News

Judith Phiri , Sunday News Reporter

FARMERS in most parts of Matabeleland provinces have begun to lose cattle to drought as most watering points have started drying up in the face of excessively hot weather conditions.

The farmers, most of them communal, have found themselves in a dire situation and have made distress calls to be rescued through borehole drilling initiatives before losing more of their life investments as some cattle are getting stuck in the mud looking for water, and eventually die.

On Thursday villagers in Gohole Village in Kezi, Matobo District in Matabeleland South Province had to rescue five cattle that had got stuck in the mud in the Hozalenditshi Dam as they were trying to get closer to the little remaining water in the dam.

A visit to the district by Sunday News on Friday revealed a sad community tale with villagers saying cattle deaths were becoming an increasing occurrence as most of the water bodies in the area have dried up. However, they could not reveal the exact number of cattle that have died. One of the men who assisted in rescuing the cattle, Mr Kelvin Ndlovu said livestock in the area were travelling long distances in search of water.

“I was the one who discovered that there were cattle stuck here and we have been witnessing a number of such incidences. We rescued the five that had gotten stuck on Thursday and word managed to reach the owner who then came to take them, as the cattle had come all the way from another village called Mashumba in search of water. On Friday we woke up to two other cows that had got stuck in the mud and we had to rescue them as well,” he said.

He said removing the stuck cattle was a  long process which even lasted into the night, while trying to identify the owner was the major challenge, considering that they would have come from  far villages.

Mr Ndlovu said water had become a challenge in the area and people were also travelling long distances to access the precious liquid.

“Most water bodies here have dried up and water is not only a challenge to livestock but to villagers as well. Boreholes are also few in the area and some people have to walk 20 kilometres in search of water.

There is a need to rehabilitate some of the dams by scooping and properly walling them.”

Another villager, Mr Thabani Ndlovu from Ekuthuleni Village, Gwezha Ward 3, said water was a challenge in the area and they had resorted to unprotected water sources. He said there was a need for communities to get more boreholes so that the distances to access water were reduced as it also affected school going children.

Mr Fanuel Dube who was digging a well nearby using rudimentary methods said the well was mainly to assist the elderly so that they do not travel long distances in search of water.

“Just as you heard, cattle are getting stuck in search of water and people are travelling long distances in search of it. To assist mainly the elderly on the other side of the dam, I am digging a well using a hammer and shovel to make it a bit deeper,” he said.

Matabeleland South Provincial Veterinary Services Director Dr Enat Mdlongwa said with most water sources drying up in most areas, incidences of cattle getting stuck in the mud were bound to be on the rise.

“Water sources and most dams in the area have dried up, livestock then tend to travel long distances in search of water which then results in some getting stuck in areas where there is mud. We urge farmers to look after their animals properly and monitor their whereabouts to minimise such occurrences,” he said.

He said as a long-term plan, there was need for the development of solarised borehole areas where farmers can easily access water for their animals without them having to travel long distances. Matobo Rural District Council (RDC) chief executive officer (CEO), Mr Elvis Sibanda said the heat wave had affected livestock in the area.

“We are in the agro-ecological Region 4 and 5 which is characterised by severe dry spells during the rainy season and frequent seasonal droughts. The water tables have gone down and this is not only affecting  people but  livestock as well. We also recently had an incident where a group of elephants travelled all the way from Botswana finding their way into the communities closer to homesteads in Ward 1.”

He said they had to engage hunters to drive the elephants into the Shashe block, a conservation area, while four of them were killed in the process after attacking some livestock. Commenting on the water situation in Gohole, he said there was a piped water scheme supplying Gohole Primary and Secondary Schools.

“Villagers then access water supplied through the piped water scheme based on them being closer to the schools. However, plans are underway to ensure more water sources are availed and old boreholes are rehabilitated,” he said.

Livestock specialist and columnist, Mr Mhlupheki Dube said when water bodies were approaching certain water levels they tend to be death traps for livestock.

“Some water bodies are silted with clay soils and they tend to be the problematic ones in terms of trapping cattle. Animals can also get stuck in the sandy soils as some of them will be very weak as they will have lost weight because of the dry season.”

He urged farmers to supervise the drinking areas of their animals and ensure they drink from areas that do not result in the livestock getting stuck in mud. Mr Dube said they can also cart water from such bodies and water their animals at their homesteads.

“Supervision is key because when an animal gets stuck and spends some time there they end up dying, even if you retrieve it, because of being exposed to some wet conditions for some time, if it’s not properly nursed it will die. If you cannot provide water in your homestead, go there and supervise where they will be drinking from.”
Mr Alson Masilinge Muleya from Beitbridge West under Headman Siyoka said their area was affected too. He said the delayed rains were affecting them as communities and their livestock.

“We are feeling the effects of a drought, the heat wave coupled with lack of rains is affecting our livestock especially cattle and donkeys. Rains only came mid-October and went, leaving those that had planted crops counting their loss.”

He said there was need for communities to be assisted with supplementary feed to avert a possible catastrophe. Mr Masilinge Muleya called for drought mitigation strategies to be set up and rolled out at grassroots levels.

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