10 500 heads of cattle have died as a result of lack of pasture and drinking water in three southern provinces of Zimbabwe. This comes at a time when what is reportedly the worst drought in recent years ravishes the country.
Matabeleland South, widely regarded as Zimbabwe’s driest province, has been the worst affected, with about 4 500 cattle having died by 15 October. According to local government officials, well over 4 000 cattle have died in the Masvingo Province, while 2 040 have died in the Midlands.
Hatitye Muchemwa, an official in the Department of Livestock and Veterinary Services in Matabeleland South said that the prolonged dry spell has decimated pastures and water sources right across the province. Most affected, Hatitye explains, are the communal farmers who are too poorly resourced supplement feed.
Zimbabwe’s national cattle herd included around 5.2m head of cattle, with 89% of these animals owned by communal farmers. According to Midlands provincial livestock specialist, Medlinah Magwenzi, farmers are likely to face problems ploughing their lands this year due to the poor conditions of the cattle.
Medlinah further added that chances of rain making the situation better are null, resulting in failure to plough this year since the farmers are not able to afford alternatives. However, she added that in the long term it would be best that the farmers are well prepared for sch an eventuality by stocking up on hay so that when conditions get as dry as they are now, they can feed their animals.
According to media reports, in Masvingo, two of the southern-most districts near the border with South Africa had seen the highest number of cattle deaths in the province. The provincial officer, Ernest Dzimwasha said that up to 4 000 have died in the province- at least of the reported cases. This then suggests that the death toll might be far higher because some farmers may not report all their losses to the department.