The Sunday News
COMMERCIAL and communal cattle farmers around the country particularly in Matabeleland continue to watch in horror and disbelief as thousands of their cattle succumb to drought-induced deaths.
The region well known for its aridness has been the country’s producer of quality export beef for years owing to climatic conditions that although not sustaining crop farming favours cattle ranching. The economy of the region therefore revolves around cattle ranching and anything that threatens cattle, threatens people’s survival.
November, a period traditionally regarded as the onset of the rainy season brought very little rain in those pockets of the country as the pastures remained depleted and chances of replenishing water sources vanished as the little rains that fell were followed by a period of scorching heat.
Now the people are slowly losing hope as they continue staring at the blue sky with no signs of the rains.
It is no longer new that pastures in the region have depleted to frightening proportions while villagers with sullen faces have lost count of the number of livestock, they have seen perishing to the ravaging drought.
Cattle deaths in the southern parts of the country are becoming dreadful, it is no longer something the authorities need time to think about. It requires urgent action. Farmers are losing out on their years of investment.
Elsewhere in this paper we carry a sad story of an 80-year-old Insiza District communal farmer in Matabeleland South, Mr Stephen Moyo who lost 45 cattle from his herd of 88 due to the effects of drought. Such losses should be a cause for concern to all stakeholders.
We are therefore calling on the authorities to come up with some form of mitigating measures to save what is left of the livestock, especially cattle. Villagers have been using their resources to buy stock feed after selling some of their cattle. However, it seems they are fighting a losing battle. What is needed now are concerted efforts from all concerned to see that cattle feed like grain is availed to the people at subsided prices. If it means giving villagers free stock feed in a bid to save the country’s national herd so be it.
We sympathise with Mr Moyo and others in the same situation as at 80, it would take a miracle for him to recover economically.
What should not be forgotten is that cattle play an important economic, social and cultural role in the lives of people.
They are a source of food, draught power, form of saving as they can be converted to cash, asset accumulation and a measure of prosperity. They are a symbol of wealth.
The authorities should therefore move with speed to see to it that a quick solution is found in mitigating the effects of drought that has decimated the national cattle herd. We have confidence that a solution would be found soon to stem this problem that is threatening the livelihood of the people.