Cattle die of hunger in Mat North

By Bonani Muleya

Villagers in Matabeleland North have castigated the government’s
Command Livestock saying the programme is selective as only high
profile people such as traditional leaders benefitted.

They had pinned hopes on the $10 million Command Livestock programme
launched by President Mnangagwa during his election campaigns in July at Arda Jotsholo, when he promised to hand over more than 1 000 head of cattle to small scale farmers in the province.

The programme is aimed at capacitating rural farmers with heifers and
bulls to replenish the national herd as well as transform people’s
lives.

Villagers are concerned that a majority of domestic animals are now
succumbing to drought.

Matabeleland North which falls under rainfall regions four and five
characterized by below minimum rainfall patterns, accounts for close
to 660 000 cattle out of a national herd of 6.6 million.

Binga, Hwange, Lupane and Tsholotsho districts are the worst affected
because of limited water sources.

Rivers dry up during the hottest months of October up to Decemberater
sources such as rivers, dams and boreholes to dry up.

A snap survey by Radio VOP around the province showed that
rivers are now dry and silted.

Villagers now share water from boreholes with domestic and wild
animals which has seen scores of cattle dying.

“I have lost two cows so far this month because of drought. We monitor
them every moment to make sure when they fail to rise we help them. I
got only $70 from the sell of one of my thin cows as villagers had no
interest buying,” said Monica Tshili from Mabale area, Hwange.

She said cattle feed was very expensive in shops.

Farmers had pinned hopes on

A total of 1 444 head of cattle were promised to the province, after a
similar gesture of 1 660 head to farmers in Matabeleland South.

It targets dry areas that do not receive much rainfall like
Matabeleland North, Matabeleland South, parts of Midlands, Masvingo
and Manicaland.

However, people feel the programme was only an election gimmick.

“The situation is very terrible as cattle are dying. We expected to
benefit from Command Livestock because it was launched here in our
area but none of us has benefitted,” said Misheck Ndlovu of Sobendle
ward in Jotsholo.

Another villager Sibahle Ncube said: “we don’t want to believe that
its one of those election promises that are never fulfilled and only
hope one day we will get the heifers since they are saying the
programme is continuing.”

Minister of State for Matabeleland North recently called for urgent
measures towards construction of dams in the province.

It is not clear how many heifers have been distributed so far.

Government will claim calves after five years and leave beneficiaries
with the seed capital.

Launching the programme President Mnangagwa said everyone will benefit.

Smallholder farmers own 90 percent of the herd, according to the Crop
and Livestock Assessment by government.