The Sunday News
Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Farming Reporter
EFFORTS are being made to move hay from Mashonaland region to the southern part of the country so as to save livestock in these areas from succumbing to the effects of drought, an official said.
Agriculture Rural and Development Authority (Arda) board chairperson Mr Basil Nyabadza said livestock, especially cattle in Matabeleland, Midlands and some parts of Masvingo provinces are in a precarious state due to the adverse shortage of pastures in those areas as a result of drought.
“Basically this year we have been victims of a very severe drought and the severity of that drought is now being felt by the state of the animals within the following provinces namely Matabeleland South, North, Midlands, Masvingo and parts of Manicaland partly due to the negative effects of Cyclone Idai that destroyed pastures and food stocks for both humans and animals,” he said.
Mr Nyabadza said there was a need to expedite the movement of hay from the hay rich Mashonaland region to use as fodder in drought prone regions to guard against loss of livestock.
“We need to effect measures to bring in pastures harvested in Mashonaland provinces namely Mashonaland East, West and Central and parts of Manicaland and we have to transport that hay to Matabeleland North and South provinces because if we don’t do that we will lose most of our national (cattle) herd. Now we need to work with the Ministry of (Lands), Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement and Ministry of Finance (and Economic Development) to come up with an emergence plan to undertake that responsibility. Encouraging discussions have been held with both the Ministers (Retired Air Chief Marshal Perrance Shiri and Professor Mthuli Ncube) of those respective ministries and we believe that a solution will be found shortly,” he said.
Mr Nyabadza said a tour of some districts in Matabeleland North and South by Arda and Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement painted a gloomy picture of the cattle’s condition.
He said the dire situation was threatening the livelihoods of most communal farmers as livestock plays a pivotal role in most rural economies.
“In this part of the country (Matabeleland) livestock is more than wealth, it’s a way of life, it’s what they (communal farmers) convert into cash in times of need whether for school fees or health issues or improving their respective homesteads,” said Mr Nyabadza.
He said the imminent enormous loss of livestock should be avoided as it has drastic impact on the revival of the Cold Storage Company (CSC).
“CSC is very dependent on cattle, goats and sheep as raw material. So that raw material is threatened and that’s why we believe it is very urgent to do what we can. If we don’t harvest the grass material in Mashonaland East, West and Central now sadly in two or three months’ time there will be veld fires and it will be destroyed. Government is already running around to see that mankind is not exposed to hunger. We must also take the same stance that our animals are not exposed to hunger and die,” said Mr Nyabadza.
He said the revival of CSC would also have ripple effects on crop production and its value chain.
“Once CSC comes back, one major industry, which will benefit is the stock feed industry as well as the milling industry because of the greater off take coming from the demand of CSC because each district will have a feed lot, that’s our plan. It means we will want more soya beans, maize and cotton production so that the by-products of those products are then fed into the livestock industry. . .,” said Mr Nyabadza.
Boustead Beef Zimbabwe has affirmed massive capital injection of US$400 million into CSC that will be spread over the next five years.
Mr Nyabadza said if urgent measures are not taken to save cattle from poverty deaths the country might be forced to import animals from neighbouring countries in an effort to enhance its national herd.