At least 1 240 cattle have died across the country due to persistent drought, as the government battles to provide adequate relief to affected farming communities.
REPORT BY BY TENDAI MARIMA
According to a September report by the Agricultural Cluster Working Group (ACWG), low rainfall in the first half of the past agricultural season had caused the deaths of thousands of animals, mainly in Matabeleland and Masvingo provinces.
“Cattle in most parts of Matabeleland South, Matabeleland North, Masvingo, Midlands and Manicaland, are facing starvation as a result of the current drought (shortage of grazing and water shortages),” said the group.
“As of September 26 2012, 1 249 deaths have been reported.”
ACWG is a cluster group chaired by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation that includes officials from the Agriculture Mechanisation and Irrigation Development ministry Agritex, UN Agencies, USAid, local NGOs, research institutes and other agricultural stakeholders from the private sector.
According to the Department of Livestock Production and Development, more than 500 animals have died in Matabeleland alone.
Matobo District in Matabeleland South is among the worst affected, with 314 cattle dying between January and August.
About 446 539 cattle out of more than 560 000 in Matabeleland South province, are said to be at risk.
Under the Enhanced Drought Relief and Livestock Mitigation Programme, the government has set aside US$10 million to provide assistance.
Although farmers have appealed for more funds from government, Finance minister Tendai Biti, has said the Agriculture ministry had not used up the US$2 million it was allocated.
Agriculture minister Joseph Made was unavailable for comment.
According to the ACWG, US$6,5 million of the drought and livestock fund had initially been set aside for the national herd, but was slashed to US$3 million.
“Out of this amount,US$2 000 000 has since been released for drought mitigation in the worst affected areas,” said ACWG.
“The survival ration is sufficient — initially for 38 300 animals for 30 days. Hay and molasses are sufficient for 2 040 animals for 30 days.”
Biti, however, said there were plans to provide more lines of credit to farmers, as well as relocation of animals to places where there is still pasture.
“We have to secure a line of credit for farmers, whereby they can purchase stockfeeds and inputs for a cheaper price. It’s a revolving fund for farmers,” he said.