The Sunday News
THE national livestock policy has been hanging between spaces waiting for approval and adoption for more than five years now.
It will not be an exaggeration to postulate that it is forgotten and perhaps gathering massive dust on some bureaucrat’s desk. This pen seeks to revive the energy around the document and plead for the expediting of the process of getting it approved and adopted as a live document in Government and private sector offices that deal with livestock issues.
In fact, it is safe to point out that the longer the policy takes before it gets adopted the more it gets redundant and overtaken by events such that its final approval will be merely an academic process with no real impact and effect on the livestock value chain.
The livestock value chains and the industry in general should be driven and guided by the national livestock policy which currently is in limbo for yet to be shared reasons. Talking about being overtaken by events one can argue that when the policy was drafted not many players in the livestock sector including farmers had appreciated the effect of climate change on our agriculture in general and livestock production in particular therefore the policy could have fatal omissions regarding policy responses to the effect of climate change on the livestock industry in Zimbabwe.
It is my submission herein that it may be in perfect order to give the draft national livestock policy an upgrade so that the version that finally gets approved is an updated, current and relevant version.
I am no policy expert and hence I tender my disclaimer right away for any suggestions that may be in contradiction of the actual process. I will therefore, be held liable for consuming my lay man suggestions hook, line and sinker without interrogating their process correctness.
It is also my well-considered view that the country needs to produce and vigorously pursue a resilience building policy in view of the devastating effects of climate change.
The assumption here is that the country has no such policy, if it does then the plea is to have resilience programming becoming a core extension approach for the Government agricultural extension services. It’s now time for business unusual like His Excellency the former President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki would say.
We cannot continue to do and deliver our extension services in the same way we used to when we were having good rainfall season four years in a row in the Matabeleland region for instance.
Now we are getting droughts back-to-back for more than three years and the effects are there for all to see. It is therefore, paramount for the Government to streamline resilience programming into their extension frame work and push for its implementation on the ground or we will continue to have a decimation of the national herd especially on the southern part of the country and we may not be able to recover from this.
It is my passionate plea that the Government should take a leading role in implementing programmes that promote community resilience against the effects of climate change. It is that time when we should be asking difficult questions like what do we need to do to serve our livestock industry from total decimation?
How can extension services be equipped to better respond and inculcate community resilience mechanism against effects of climate change? What immediate intervention can be done to save the remaining livestock?
This could be in terms of water provision which is a mammoth task for most smallholder farmers. Is it not possible to summon resources, drill boreholes and install solarised water reticulation systems? What strategy can be used to harvest the abundant grass in other better rainfall areas and send hay bales to the needy areas?
Obviously I do not have the monopoly of the right answers and suggestion but I am convinced that if the nation has a conversation around this issue of climate change and the need to remould our extension service provision in a manner that capacitates communities it will have far reaching positive effects.
Resilience building cannot be left to a few non-governmental organisations because they simply will not have the capacity to cover all the areas that need the support. It is about time we had a sober dialogue about how to save our livestock from the back-to-back droughts that are currently ravaging some parts of the country. Uyabonga umntakaMaKhumalo.
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