By Vusisizwe Mkhwananzi
Gwanda, March 01, 2016 – FARMERS in drought-hit Matabeleland South province are up in arms with agricultural officials after 160 metric tonnes of stockfeed which was delivered to the province last year to save thousands of cattle from starvation were recently reallocated to Masvingo province because of low uptake by farmers in the region.
Gwanda District Agritex Officer Ben Matsholongwane confirmed the development saying the low uptake of the stockfeed had resulted in the latest move despite the province being in dire need of feed to save over 300 000 cattle from succumbing to drought.
“The feed has been taken to Masvingo because farmers here were reluctant to buy the feed hence part of it was reallocated to Masvingo where uptake is high,” said Matsholongwane.
However most farmers who spoke to RadioVOP said the feed which is selling for $8 was expensive for them and government should have availed the feed on a loan facility.
“The problem is that we do not have the money right now to buy the feed.
“If we had been consulted we would have pleaded with the authorities to give us the feed on a credit facility and we would have been able to pay back when our cattle recover, right now most of the cattle have lost weight and they are not marketable,” said Mqondisi Nyoni, a cattle rancher at Johnsly resettlement area in West Nicholson.
Matabeleland South has the second highest cattle population in Zimbabwe after Masvingo and received 2 389 metric tonnes of beef survival feed in November last year but only 1 407 metric tonnes have been sold.
Over 1 500 cattle have so far succumbed to drought in the country’s poorest province and there are renewed fears the remainder of the herd could also succumb to effects of the El-Nino drought.
“Our hope was that government would assist us with the feed but now that it has been sent to another province our cattle are at risk, we are currently penning our cattle in the fields and they are feeding on the failed crop but after that we do not know what will happen,” said Sibongokuhle Moyo, a cattle rancher at Dubane Ranch in Collen Bawn.
“Others have had to move their cattle to faraway places like Fort Rixon where pastures are said to be good but that is expensive.”
Deputy Minister of Agriculture Paddy Zhanda has however defended the reallocation of the feed arguing there was no need to keep it in the province when it is not being sold.
“Some farmers in other provinces are in dire need of the feed and there is no reason to keep it where it’s not being utilized,” Zhanda said.
Diminishing grazing pastures as well as low water levels have adversely affected cattle, a situation that has resulted in the drop of cattle prices.
Cattle in the province of perennially low agricultural output are the main source of livelihood to most people who sell them to send their children to school and for self sustenance.
Incessant droughts have negatively affected livestock production resulting in the reduction of the province’s cattle herd which is estimated to be over 600 000.