Mashudu Netsianda, Senior Business Reporter
VICE President Dr Constantino Chiwenga yesterday handed over the first batch of 200 heifers to 66 cattle farmers from Matabeleland North and Matabeleland South provinces under the $300 million Command Livestock, Fisheries and Wildlife programme.
The programme, which is meant to revitalise livestock production in the country, was launched by VP Chiwenga in February at Gwatemba Business Centre in Insiza District, Matabeleland South. Speaking during the handover ceremony of the heifers at the Bulawayo Agricultural Showgrounds, VP Chiwenga said the facility will improve beef production and help boost the country’s economy.
“I am enthused to advise that the first batch of 200 heifers has been brought and 66 farmers from Matabeleland North and South will benefit from this batch on a cost recovery basis. What we want now is for you to grow our cattle head to the maximum ever before and also to introduce good agricultural methods to make sure that our grazing lands are properly managed.
“We are saying where there is water or boreholes, we should try to irrigate our pastures,” he said.
The Vice-President said the programme was a public-private sector partnership that supports production of high nutrition animal source food products under the Food Security and Nutrition Cluster in line with the Zim-Asset blue-print.
“The registration and contracting of future beneficiaries is currently underway. VP Chiwenga said Government decided to give Matabeleland region first priority taking cognisance of the fact that the area was good for cattle farming.
“We are here to make good the promise that we made in February when launched the programme in Gwatemba in Insiza District. We are working on this programme with the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement together with our private partners and the RBZ,” he said.
“Very soon the RBZ will unveil a programme to give farmers in Matabeleland North and South about $30 million for heifers so that we can restock these two provinces.”
VP Chiwenga also said the Government was channelling $80 million towards the livestock programme with the remaining $220 million funding drawn from the private sector. He said the Government through the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has intensified efforts to ensure that the Cold Storage Company (CSC)depots in Bulawayo, Masvingo and Chinhoyi are re-opened and were expected to be operational this year.
VP Chiwenga said under the poultry programme, the first batch of 20 000 chicks including feed and vaccines were contributed by Irvines’ to 15 farmers on Independence Day in Goromonzi District in Mashonaland East. The second batch of 20 000 chicks will be distributed in Mazowe in Mashonaland Central today with the third batch of 20 000 expected to be distributed in Zvimba District in Mashonaland West on May 4.
“More batches will be distributed in due course to the rest of the country,” VP Chiwenga said.
He said the Zimbabwe Wildlife Association also offered to sell wildlife species, which include eland, impala, wildebeest, zebra and giraffe.
A total of 23 farmers have expressed interest in joining the Command Wildlife programme and the inspection and assessment of their farms is in progress. The progress made so far reflects the Government’s commitment to empower farmers and increase agricultural productivity. The Zimbabwe Agricultural Society (ZAS) has partnered Zimplats, Sakunda Holdings and Irvines’ among other players to roll out the programme, which will soon be taken to other provinces.
Sakunda Holdings has already offered $10 million seed money to the purchase of the breeding of heifers and two million chicks per month for distribution countrywide.
ZAS and Zimplats have also committed to fund the artificial insemination programme to increase livestock production and improve genetics.
The first phase would target insemination of 6 000 semen straws to 3 600 cattle with a potential to produce 1 800 bulls and 1 800 heifers.
The second phase will increase the total semen straws to 16 000. Once successfully running, the programme is expected to be self-sustaining in the long term.
The insemination programme is expected to empower communal farmers with better livestock rearing practices so as to ensure sustainability. — @mashnets