By Kenneth Matimaire
Chipinge, February 19, 2016 – SMALLHOLDER livestock farmers facing grim prospects of losing herds through the current drought spell have received a timely intervention from a non-profit making organisation called Fintrac.
The organisation has introduced a series of strategic measures to protect the depleting district herd.
The intervention – Feed the Future Zimbabwe Livestock Development Programme – is aimed at establishing feed-lots, pen fattening and fodder production in 13 wards in the drought prone district.
A total of 4 500 beef and 2 000 dairy smallholder farmers are expected to benefit from the exercise.
The programme comes at a time government revealed that Chipinge recorded the highest number of cattle deaths in the province.
Manicaland provincial administrator Fungai Mbetsa said Chipinge lost 2 500 cattle followed by Buhera, which had 500 and 148 in Chimanimani as well as 161 in Makoni.
Mbetsa also said Chipinge was found to be among the most vulnerable districts in the country, which should be placed under the Zimbabwe Vulnerable Assessment Committee (ZIMVAC).
Desperate farmers in the district were reportedly selling their cattle for as little as $30 as livestock succumbed to an acute shortage of pastures owing to the prolonged the dry spell.
“We crafted a survival strategy for the livestock farmers (Feed the Future Zimbabwe Livestock Development Programme), which is on feed-lots, pen fattening and fodder production in 13 wards here (Chipinge).
“As an organisation, our aim is to reduce rural poverty and increase income and food security for 4 300 beef and 2 000 dairy farmers,” said Fintrac provincial supervisor Meynard Chirima.
Chirima said they also seek to improve hygiene, nutrition and quality of cattle in the targeted areas, to ensure they survived the current drought as well as fetch higher prices on the market.
“Chipinge livestock farmers are selling their cattle for a song. This is mainly because of the state of the cattle, which have been subjected to pastures, which depreciates their value. So with the interventions we have crafted in place, the farmers will be able to improve the health of their livestock and sell them at profitable prices,” he said.
Chirima indicated that Fintrac was working in partnership with Livestock Production and Development (LDP), Department of Livestock and Veterinary Services (DLVS), and African Breeders Services Total Cattle Management (ABS-TCM).
He further indicated that they have secured loans for the farmers to buy stock feeds for the cattle.
Stock feeds producers such as Sable Meats sell a 15kg bag $3 while National Foods sell 50kg bags at $13,25 – enough to feed two cattle for 25 days.
“The loan facility was an immediate intervention after we discovered that most farmers were herding their cattle in the Save Conservancy in search of pastures. This exposed their cattle to foot and mouth disease as they will be grazing together with Buffaloes there,” he said.
Farmers who spoke to Radio VOP welcomed the initiative.
“Our cattle had no pastures. We were losing cattle everyday due to hunger. Out of desperation, we were forced to sell them for as little as $30 or even $20. But this programme has come at the most opportune time.
“It will go a long way to improve our situation,” said Daniel Sithole, a livestock farmer.