Oliver Kazunga, Senior Business Reporter
LIVESTOCK farmers in Matabeleland have called on the Government to expedite the introduction of Command Agriculture in the livestock sector to boost the economy and the entire meat value chain.
The Government introduced the Command Agriculture initiative last year as part of efforts to increase food security and guarantee economic growth.
Under the programme, farmers are supplied with inputs such as seed and fertiliser and given targets to produce. Concerning grain the Government anticipates producing up to two million tonnes of maize from 400 000 hectares of land.
In a statement, the Matabeleland Council of Farmers’ Unions, which comprise the Zimbabwe National Farmers’ Union, Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers’ Union, and the Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union among others, said it was high time the Government considers implementing developmental programmes that are specific to each ecological region.
“We wish to draw a parallel with the successful Command Agriculture programme for crops where the Government provided inputs assistance to farmers.
“Matabeleland is in ecological region five, which is dry and not suitable for crop farming as compared to other regions. Our region thrives on cattle production. We call on the Government to consider extending the Command Agriculture scheme to cattle production,” read the statement.
“The main thrust should be providing replacement heifers, breeding bulls, technical advice, and loans with appropriate terms as cattle farming is a long term project, unlike cropping.”
The farmers said they were ready to mobilise their members for the successful implementation of the cattle aspect of the Command Agriculture programme.
“We urge the Government to come up with development programmes that are specific to each ecological region, as opposed to the one-size-fits-all approach, which never works for other regions,” said the farmers.
Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Dr Joseph Made has said that the resuscitation of the Cold Storage Company, once the country’s largest beef processor, hinged on the recovery of the livestock sector.
Livestock producers in Matabeleland have cried foul over the continued closure of cattle sales at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) show grounds in Bulawayo following an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease detected in three beasts that were being sold.
The farmers have highlighted that the continued closure of the cattle sales had seriously affected thousands of commercial and communal farmers who survive on cattle ranching.
They had hoped that after 18 months from the last known outbreak, if there were no cases of foot-and-mouth detected, the veterinary department would lift the previously imposed quarantine allowing sales to resume normally.
However, Dr Made’s deputy responsible for livestock production, Paddy Zhanda, has quashed those claims stressing that the Government would not re-open cattle sales at the ZITF. He said farmers were being used by “unscrupulous” Bulawayo-based cattle auctioneers who short-change villagers.
“We note with regret and concern the pronouncements by the Deputy Minister (Mr Paddy Zhanda). . . in which he alleges that; the call for the reopening of show grounds cattle sales in Bulawayo was being advanced by individuals bought by the ‘unscrupulous’ auctioneer,” they said.
“Regrettably, the above pronouncements by the Deputy Minister are misleading and devoid of any material facts and run contrary to reality on the ground.
“We feel grossly insulted by the Deputy Minister’s allegation that we are fronting the interests of the concerned cattle auctioneers running the show grounds sale. We are self-respecting and rightful thinking people who have invested in the cattle industry.”
The farmers demanded support from the Government and accused Deputy Minister Zhanda of working against their interests as livestock farmers.