THE African Union-Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation yesterday launched the resilient African feed and fodder systems (RAFFS Project) in Zimbabwe.
The project will contribute to understanding the effects of COVID-19, climate change shocks and the conflict between Russia and Ukraine on the African fodder systems.
It will be implemented through the African Women in Animal Resources Farming and Agribusiness Network, an organisation established under the ambit of AU-IBAR.
This ensures women’s meaningful inclusion in gainful activities in the feed and fodder sector, and the livestock sourced food supply chains.
Officially launching the project in Harare yesterday, Agriculture deputy minister Vangelis Haritatos said the growth of the livestock sub-sector had been hindered by low production and productivity.
“The livestock sector, like all other sectors in Zimbabwe, has not been spared by the negative effects of the current and ongoing global crises such as recurrent droughts and other climatic vagaries, effects of the COVID-19 era and Ukraine war,” he said.
“These have contributed, either directly or indirectly, to low production and productivity of the livestock sector and its upstream and downstream industries.”
He said performance of the veld, which forms the basic source of feed for grazing livestock, had been negatively impacted by droughts, while stockfeed manufacturing had been negatively impacted in terms of raw materials and other inputs availability, labour and market access.
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“The crises have exposed the significant weaknesses and vulnerabilities in the country's feed and fodder input. Feed constitutes about 70-80% of the cost of production of livestock,” he said.
The major challenges affecting the livestock sector include animal health, sanitary and food safety issues; availability of adequate nutrition (feed, pastures, fodder and water); genetic improvement issues; access to infrastructure suitable for accessing lucrative domestic, regional and international markets; and low investment in the sector.
In an effort to address these challenges, Haritatos said the government produced the livestock growth plan, a blueprint with strategies to improve livestock production and productivity. One of the pillars addressed in the growth plan is livestock nutrition.
To address nutrition issues affecting the livestock industry, the government has introduced various measures which include a presidential silage scheme; presidential legume pasture programme (creation of fodder banks), presidential borehole drilling programme to mitigate water shortages and improve access to irrigation water.
He said the continental initiative was welcome to Zimbabwe as it dovetailed into the objectives and goals of the economic blueprint, National Development Strategy 1 while adhering to the livestock growth plan.
“At the moment, the growth of the livestock sub-sector has been characterised by low production and productivity but we hope through various interventions by the government and donor partners that this will be a thing of the past,” Haritatos said.
AU-IBAR director Huyam Salih said through the project, AWARFA-N Zimbabwe Chapter is expected to be one of the most vibrant, organised and empowered with visible achievements.
“One of the result areas of the RAFFS project is empowerment of women in the feed and fodder and the livestock sourced foods value chains,” she said in a speech read on her behalf by AU-IBAR senior knowledge management officer Patricia Lumba.
“The RAFFS project will support consolidation of the AWARFA-Net Zimbabwe five-year strategy and resource mobilisation plan.”