Nqobile Bhebhe ,Zimbabwe:
ZIMBABWE’s quest to boost its national cattle herd could be on course as Government is this week expected to start distributing cattle under its $300 million Special Livestock, Fisheries and Wildlife Programme.
According to the Crop and Livestock Assessment Report issued by the Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Ministry, the national herd increased by four percent during the 2016/2017 cattle production season.
Matabeleland, a predominantly cattle ranching region is set to be allocated 200.
The country, which lost thousands of cattle in the past seven years following consecutive droughts, has been struggling to restock due to the country’s precarious financial situation.
Over the years, farmers’ efforts to grow the herd have been derailed by a number of challenges such as lack of adequate funding to purchase feeds, dipping chemicals and loss of livestock to thieves.
Matabeleland North Provincial Agricultural Technical and Extension Services (Agritex) officer Dumisani Nyoni said the cattle would be “distributed equally between Matabeleland North and South”
“I can confirm that a team of National Command Agriculture was here (Matabeleland) last week and 200 cattle were bought to kick start the programme and these will be distributed equally between Matabeleland North and South during the Trade Fair period,” said Nyoni who is also the Command Agriculture Provincial Co-ordinator.
Officials say the Command Livestock Programme which is expected to run between three and five years was for serious people who wanted to engage in business and not for experiments.
Farmers who want to benefit from the programme will be expected to submit a bankable proposal on what they require from the funding.
Livestock is a long term project and requires long term finance and access to cheap finance instead of the current interest rates of 12 percent.
A2 and commercial farmers are therefore finding it difficult to grow their herds because of the lack of medium to long term finance.
However, command livestock will cover all aspects of livestock including beef cattle, dairy cows, pigs, sheep, goats, fish, wildlife and small stock such as poultry and rabbits.
Government is injecting in $300 million to guarantee the programme of which $80 million will go towards infrastructure such as fencing and dip tanks.
During the 2015/2016 summer cropping season, livestock producers were hard-hit by the drought that not only affected Zimbabwe, but the southern African region, due to the effects of El-Nino.
This resulted in deaths of livestock.