Government steps in to save drought- stricken livestock : 2 million cattle at risk of water & feed challenges Vice President Kembo Mohadi along with Minister Dr Anxious Masuka and Deputy Minister Dr Omphile Marupi commissions the Garanyemba Ward drought mitigation centre

Sukulwenkosi Dube-Matutu[email protected] 

VICE-President Kembo Mohadi yesterday officially launched the national livestock drought mitigation programme at Garanyemba in Gwanda, Matabeleland South Province, as the Government steps up efforts to alleviate the adverse effects of drought on the country’s livestock sector, a critical economic pillar and source of livelihood for many households.

The initiative is part of the Second Republic’s broader strategy to support farmers across the country and ensure the sustainability of livestock farming during periods of severe weather conditions. The programme is expected to provide farmers with resources, support, and guidance, helping them manage their herds and mitigate losses due to drought.

Traditionally the hub of a thriving livestock sector, Matabeleland South Province is one of the hardest hit by drought and has recently suffered significant losses due to livestock deaths linked to inadequate pastures, drying water sources and animal diseases.

About two million cattle, which translates to a third of the national herd, are at risk of water and feed challenges, while the rest of the national herd will suffer from poor nutrition, according to official estimates. 

The second crop, livestock and fisheries assessment report found that the El Nino-induced drought had caused a loss of 9 941 cattle since the start of the 2023-2024 season. The report found that about 47 percent of the rural wards will face grazing shortages starting this month, and 76 percent of the wards will face water challenges for livestock use. 

The Government and its partners in the private sector have pledged to provide hay and other feeds plus watering points to around two million cattle at risk of drought in a bid to save the national herd of 5  718  523 cattle. 

The schemes include enhancement of disease surveillance, veld fire management along with availability of water and feed and movement of cattle from the hardest hit areas.

According to the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries Water and Rural Development, the national herd is spread across provinces, with Masvingo having 995 069, Midlands 971 244, Matabeleland North 726 786, Mashonaland East 679 586, Matabeleland South 689 654, Manicaland 643 954, Mashonaland West 538 456 and Mashonaland Central 473 774.

The total dairy herd stands at 60 398. 

Commissioning the livestock drought mitigation strategies and village business unit model programme yesterday, Vice President Mohadi said the programme will be replicated across all rural wards in the country and is expected to help the Government build resilience among communities and mitigate the effects of the El Nino-induced drought. 

“Today, we gather to launch a crucial initiative to mitigate the impact of drought on our nation’s livestock sector. This effort is a testament to our commitment as a Government to support our farmers and ensure food and nutrition security,” he said.

Feeding troughs at the Garanyemba Ward drought mitigation centre

“In the past season, the country has been ravaged by the worst El Nino-induced drought in 43 years, as Zimbabwe found itself at the epicentre of this drought. The impact of this drought didn’t spare the livestock sector with 2,3 million cattle at risk.”

Over 9 000 cattle were lost countrywide during the livestock lean season of 2023 with Matabeleland South province recording 4 873 cattle deaths.

Garanyemba Ward has been selected to pilot the programme being implemented under the Rural Development 8.0 programme. 

The programme will see drought mitigation centres being established in all 1 620 rural wards in the country. The centres will house solar-powered boreholes, nutrition gardens, livestock feeding troughs, livestock water troughs, supplementary feeding troughs and livestock sales centres being constructed in each drought mitigation centre.

A one-hectare garden has been established at the centre where farmers have planted, cabbage, rape and spinach. Water and feeding troughs have been established for animals. The community now has access to tap water as two solarised boreholes have been drilled at the centre.

The community of Garanyemba has also received 22 tonnes of cattle feed, 10 tonnes of silage, 3,5 tonnes of hay bales and 25 metric tonnes of maize grain from the Government and its partners.

VP Mohadi said the drought mitigation centres will help the country sustain the national herd in the face of the prevailing drought. He said the launch of the programme in Garanyemba is a practical response by the Second Republic to ensure that no one and no place is left behind.

The Vice President said following the declaration of the 2023-2024 agricultural season State of National Disaster by President Mnangagwa in April, the Government has adopted a coordinated approach to addressing the impact of El Nino-induced drought across all sectors of the economy.

“It’s important that Zimbabwe must emerge from this drought stronger and better able to withstand future climate-induced shocks. This resilience building starts with the community of Garanyemba who, undoubtedly will emerge stronger and more resilient going forward,” he said.

VP Mohadi also said strategies that can be employed to mitigate the impact of drought on livestock include improved access to water, rangeland management, animal nutrition and supplementary feeding, animal health management, early warning systems, livestock insurance, capacity building and community collaboration.

During the same event Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Minister, Dr Anxious Masuka, said the project is being expeditiously implemented to ensure that communities are cushioned against the effects of the El Nino-induced drought.

“After the declaration by His Excellency the President, Dr ED Mnangagwa of a state of disaster occasioned by the worst  El-Nino phenomenon, the areas which have been largely affected are food and water for people and feed for livestock,” he said.

“About 2,5 million cattle across provinces, especially the four provinces of Matabeleland South, Matabeleland North, Midlands and Masvingo are at risk. The President directed that we respond by accelerating water provision. There are 1 620 wards in the eight rural provinces, each with a drought mitigation centre. Priority is being given to the 1 035 wards which are in Region 4 and 5.”

Dr Masuka said each centre will have a village business unit, water troughs, feeding troughs, disease control point and livestock sales centres.

Matabeleland South Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Dr Evelyn Ndlovu urged the community of Garanyemba to jealously guard the project as it will go a long way in alleviating poverty.

She thanked President Mnangagwa for prioritising the people of Matabeleland South who have been reeling from the effects of losing their livestock.

“This drought has had devastating effects on both our livestock and people in our province. Several water points have and continue to dry up. Today we are gathered here at Garanyemba to witness a proactive approach or model whose aim is to save livestock and human lives,” said Dr Ndlovu.—@DubeMatutu




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