Fao bails out cattle farmers

BEITBRIDGE - The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (Fao) and UKAid have began a programme to save more than half-a-million units of livestock in Matabeleland South province, reeling from a severe drought.

Matabeleland South province traditionally holds the bulk of the country’s cattle, but consecutive droughts have drastically reduced the herd to alarming levels, putting a strain on villagers and the beef industry.

Most villagers in Beitbridge Kezi, Mangwe and Gwanda districts in Matabeleland South are losing their livestock daily due to lack of pastures caused by poor rains for the past two seasons.

“We received a grant from UKAid for this livestock-saving project and as Fao we are working with many other local Non-Governmental Organisations (Ngos) whom we contracted under this programme, so that we can reach out to many cattle farmers,” Bazel Mugweni, Fao livestock technical officer told journalists during a tour of cattle feeding projects in rural Beitbridge on Tuesday.

Under this cattle feeding programme, Fao is supplying thousands of 50kg bags of stock feeds and drilling boreholes for half-a-million cattle in Matabeleland South region.

Speaking to journalists during a media tour of some of the projects in Lutumba village in Beitbridge East, Ward Five councillor Jonasi Ndou praised Fao for coming up with the programme saying it would save livestock in Matabeleland South which has been hit by severe drought this year.

“We were losing hundreds of cattle a month but we would like to thank Fao for this brilliant programme. This is a relief to many cattle farmers in Beitbridge and in Matabeleland South at large,” Ndou said.

“We were buying the stock feeds at exorbitant prices on the black market in Bulawayo, Harare and Masvingo. This warehouse for stock feeds which Fao has put in place here in Lutumba village, saves more than 40 000 cattle in my area alone.”

Recently Zimbabwe commercial farmers’ union (ZCFU) president, Donald Khumalo called on government to take urgent measures to save livestock in Matabeleland South saying the region could face a repeat of the 1992 situation, when more than half of the national herd was lost during a devastating drought.

Most villagers in Matabeleland South are now even selling their cattle for as little as $150 while others exchanged their beasts for solar panels and motor cycles to cut their losses.

Zimbabwe is one of the six southern African countries hit by drought this year, leaving over 14 million people in the affected countries in need of urgent food aid.

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