The Sunday News
Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Farming Reporter
THE Government has partnered various organisations to avail 200 000 tonnes of stock feed to save hundreds of cattle mainly in Matabeleland amid reports that more than 600 cattle have already succumbed to poverty death.
The country is in the middle of a drought which has seen most water bodies drying up and pastures depleted resulting in cattle dying especially in the Matabeleland region, where livestock rearing is the main economic activity.
Agriculture, Land, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement Deputy Minister Vangelis Peter Haritatos said the Government had engaged strategic partners to assist it in the provision of 200 000 tonnes of supplementary stock feed.
“Government and its partners are coming up with what we call survival meal of 200 000 metric tonnes that is to help our livestock industry,” he said.
In 2016, the Government partnered with Food and Agriculture Organisation to distribute feed in four districts in Matabeleland South Province namely Gwanda, Beitbridge, Mangwe and Bulilima, two districts in Masvingo Province and Chipinge in Manicaland Province. Dep Minister Haritatos said there was a need for farmers to destock their herds so as to guard against mortalities due to the effects of drought.
“We currently have a drought and that means as farmers or ranchers we need to destock slightly in order to make sure we raise cash to dip our cattle constantly as well as to enable us to buy supplementary feed for our animals to survive the dry conditions,” he said.
Dep Minister Haritatos said the Government has introduced a countrywide dipping programme aimed at reducing the number of cattle succumbing to tick-borne related diseases.
“We have a nationwide dipping programme but what we do we encourage our farmers to continue to pay for that dipping. If we don’t pay as farmers, Government cannot fund that programme,” he said.
Department of Agricultural Technical and Extension Services Matabeleland South provincial officer Mrs Simangaliphi Ngwabi said cattle in her area of jurisdiction were already succumbing to the effects of drought as pastures continue to dwindle while most water bodies are fast drying up.
“Cattle are now in a very bad state and we have now recorded poverty deaths of more than 600 cattle in all the districts although the Department of Veterinary Service are stating that they have a cumulative figure of about 3 000 deaths but I’m not sure where they draw that figure from. Most of the dams are fast drying up. There is a need for urgent action to be taken so as to guard against poverty deaths, even provision of hay might do at this point because the situation is now precarious. The Government has promised to distribute survival meal though,” she said.
Mrs Ngwabi said most farmers were losing their livestock largely due to improper animal husbandry management.
“The problem is that our farmers don’t seem to learn from past experiences because astute farmers would have long started looking for survival meals to avoid unwarranted calamities,” she said.
Matabeleland North provincial veterinary officer Dr Polex Moyo said most cattle were in dire strait largely due to lack of sufficient water sources in most of the districts..
“The situation is now very bad and there is a need to expedite relief efforts. The challenge we are faced with is mostly lack of water sources as most of the dams have dried up and there is really a need to rehabilitate all broken down boreholes as well as drill more especially solar-powered ones. Interestingly we haven’t recorded much poverty deaths in the province.
According to statistics obtained from the provincial veterinary office 80 cattle had succumbed to poverty by the month of August. Reports said over 12 000 cattle were lost due to drought in Matabeleland South in 2013 due to drought related challenges.