Livestock producers plead for funding

HARARE - Livestock farmers in Matabeleland have called for more government funding towards cattle production and restocking in its 2013 budget allocation.

Matabeleland Livestock Initiative representative, Sifiso Sibanda told a Parliamentary budget consultative meeting in Bulawayo, that government was not giving priority to livestock farming in province despite it being the backbone of the region’s economy.

“We feel there is need to re-look how agricultural funds are channelled because at the moment the government is disbursing more funds for crops farming but very little is done to harness resources for livestock production,” Sibanda said adding livestock population had due to drought and poor funding.

“Currently there is no bank which is seriously supporting livestock farmers. Even Agribank which is supposed to be a farmers’ bank is not doing enough to support the farmers,” he said.

“Some people say if we capacitate Cold Storage Company (CSC) we are capacitating livestock farmers in the region but these are two different situations all together because CSC is competing against farmers. The smallholder farmers producing goats, sheep and pigs sector need government financial support.”

He said they was need for government to come up with a specific budget allocation for livestock production.

“Our proposal is that every budget that is meant for agriculture can be split into two, where the other half caters for crop production and the remainder for livestock .This would go a long way in improving efficiency in resource allocation,” he said.

“If you look at the number of livelihoods that can be improved if farmers get financial assistance then you will realise that the money used to mitigate against drought could be used for other purposes if government adopts a clearer vision on the issue of livestock,” said.

Sibanda adding  that the funds should be funnelled through a system that will make it easy for the farmers to access.
The plea by sector for support comes a time when most farmers in the drought prone Matabeleland region have lost livestock due to the devastating effects of drought.

Last month the Department of Livestock Production said 514 cattle died due to lack of pastures, while 371 100 are at risk of dying if provision of supplementary stock feed is not expedited in Matabeleland South region.

It said the figures might exceed this as it is likely that some death  may have gone unrecorded because some farmers are relocating their cattle without approval from the Department of Veterinary Services.

Matabeleland South region has an estimated total of 556 619 head of cattle contributing about 10 percent to the national herd.

The ministry of Finance released $2 million to mitigate drought in the worst affected areas but farmers said it fell far short of what is needed to meet the demand.

The country’s commercial herd according farmer organisations depleted by 1 400 percent from 1,4 million to 100 000 beasts owing to the controversial fast-track land reform programme which left the entire agricultural sector on its knees.

The communal herd which used to be six million in 2000 now stands at five million, representing an improvement from a previous overall of four million in the period between 2000 and 2010.

At independence in 1980,the communal herd used to be seven million. - Bulawayo Correspondent

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