LIVESTOCK farmers in Beitbridge, Gwanda and parts of Mwenezi districts have reported a marked deterioration in the health of their animals as drought tightens its grip on parts of Matabeleland South and Masvingo provinces.
By Rex Mphisa
Although some parts of the country have received some relief rainfall, the southern part of the country remains dry with no meaningful rains.
Communal farmers in the Tshapfuche, Tongwe, Jopempe and Nuli areas of Beitbridge central reported this week the situation was dire and could get worse if no meaningful rains were received soon.
Other desperate reports were from Beitbridge West where overstocking by villagers and the indiscriminate cutting of trees had affected vegetation.
“There is trouble in the land. The situation is not looking good right now,” Herbert Zhou, a resettled farmer from Klein Begin, commonly known as the Joko area of Beitbridge Central, said after posting images of a cow that had just fallen and was failing to rise.
Beitbridge central has no pastures left and cattle use lots of energy to look for food and water.
In the West, farmers have driven their cattle to government-allocated grazing reserve farms, but the pastures are dry.
“There is need for rain urgently. If there could be cloud-seeding targeting our area, we would get relief and save our animals,” another farmer, Elias Chibi, said.
Although his area in Gwanda east still had some pastures, there was need for new grass to improve hydration of the animals.
Owing to poor rainfall patterns, farmers south of the Runde River and the south-eastern parts of Zimbabwe including the Lowveld have livestock husbandry as their mainstay.
Large beef herds are found in the Manyuchi, Chikombedzi and Sango areas in Masvingo South while Beitbridge, Gwanda and Kezi and parts of Bulilima and Mange districts of Matabeleland South are renowned beef zones.
Mwenezi district administrator Rosemary Chingwe recently told farmers in the district to sell older stocks to feed young ones.
Farmers have, however, decried the steep cost of supplementary feed in relation to their huge herds.
Farmers in this region have requested government to have a clear-cut policy on livestock farming and give it as much attention as cropping, which receives millions of dollars in a variety of schemes supported by the state.
“We have command agriculture, the presidential input schemes and several other cropping assistance from non-governmental organisations, but little on livestock,” said Chibi.
He said if livestock received the same attention, rebuilding the national herd would be easier and then the country would focus on fighting problem diseases.
A host of animal diseases, including foot-and-mouth, haunt Zimbabwe’s cattle industry which used to be one of the country’s main foreign currency earners before it was dislodged by Botswana during the chaotic land reforms when animal movement controls were jeopardised.
Farmers believe the government is not doing enough on that front.