Chipinge’s resource poor smallholder farmers are accruing huge livestock losses due to drought and diseases, with the latest statistics indicating that more than 1 300 cattle have died in the past few months.
The cattle are dying at an alarming rate due to a combination of feed and water shortages as well as exposure to diseases like foot and mouth and anthrax.
Chipinge District is a controlled zone that stretches to Chiredzi due to its proneness to the dangerous anthrax and foot and mouth diseases and as a result cattle movement to other districts is prohibited.
Farmers in the area can only sell or barter trade within the controlled zone, resulting in cattle prices plummeting to as little as $20.
A report on the Food Security and Nutrition Cluster presented at the Provincial Affairs Ministerial End of Year indaba by Mr Joseph Mukajami painted a gloomy picture of the livestock sector in Chipinge.
“More than 1 300 cattle have died in Chipinge in the last few months, and if the rains fail to improve, more cattle are likely to die,” said Mr Mukajami.
Manicaland Provincial Affairs Minister Mandi Chimene described the situation as terrible.
“To have such a huge figure in one district is shocking. Our people cannot afford such losses. It is a disaster and at times we need to advise them to sell some of their cattle and use the money to buy stock feed for a manageable herd, but the challenge is that they cannot sell outside their borders,” said Chimene.
Chipinge’s herd is estimated at 30 000.
The worst affected areas are Kondo, Maronga, Dumisayi, Mwacheta, Masimbe, Chibuwe, Maunganidze, Bangwe, Musani, Tanganda, Manesa, Mutema, Rimbi, Gumira, Manzvire, Chisavanye, Mariya, Rimai, Madhuku, Chisumbanje, Vheneka, Chinyamukwakwa, Mabee, Chisuma and Maparadze.
Acting Provincial Livestock Production and Development Officer for Manicaland Mr Joshua Zveutete described the situation as dire, but was quick to applaud the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) for intervening with stock feeds to curtail more cattle deaths.
“So far FAO has intervened in the most affected areas, helping farmers with stock feeds in a bid to reduce cattle deaths. We are appealing to DDF to come to the farmers’ rescue through rehabilitation and sinking of boreholes. There is need to fund the construction of water troughs at water points. NGOs can also chip in,” said Mr Zvoutete.
Chipinge Rural District Council acting chief executive officer, Mr Blessing Mamvosha, said the statistics could be under reported.
“Cattle are starving to death daily and the cattle deaths could be more than those reported. The cattle are dying as a result of water and feed shortages as well as diseases. Last year, the district did not receive good rains, resulting in poor pastures. This year the rain came late in December when the pastures had been strained,” said Mr Mamvosha.
Mr Mamvosha added that cattle in Chipinge were constantly exposed to anthrax and foot-and-mouth diseases and, as a result, farmers were inhibited from moving their cattle to other areas with better feed to avoid the spreading of the disease.
The Manica Post understands animals in the district are relying on drying borehole water.
One of the affected villagers only identified as Mr Guzuzu of Mutema Village said while FAO was doing its best, more intervention was still needed to tackle the problem.
“We appreciate what FAO is doing, but Government and other NGOs should also intervene to swiftly save the situation. We are in serious trouble this year. We do not have pastures in this district. This has left farmers clueless and watching in awe as our cattle die indiscriminately,” said Mr Guzuzu.
Another farmer, Mr Munyati Charuma, revealed that some herds of cattle were being driven into Mozambique in search of pastures.