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of cattle die after a dry spell in Zimbabwe
February 15, 2013
More than 9,000 cattle
have died in the last few months following poor rains in Zimbabwe's
Matabeleland South Province; more than half the death toll occurred
in just one district.
"The most affected
district in Matabeleland South Province is Mangwe, which has lost
a total of 5,476 head of cattle since late 2012, with Matobo and
Beitbridge districts having lost 1,232 and 1,015 respectively,"
the province's chief livestock specialist, Simangaliphi Ngwabi,
According to a 2011 parliamentary
profile of the Mangwe district the cattle population was estimated
Officially, Ngwabi said,
since December 2012 up until 5 February 2013, 9,395 cattle deaths
were recorded in the province, but the actual death toll was likely
to be much higher.
that we encounter when coming up with true statistics is that some
people do not report cattle deaths, and that means they do not reflect
on our statistics.
"In some instances,
after going on an assessment visit, we discovered that some of the
data capturing was faulty. In one instance, where we believed the
whole district had lost a total of 172 cattle, one area of the same
district had actually lost 278 heads of cattle," Ngwabi said.
Ngwabi said the government
should intervene through the provision of low-cost cattle feed.
She also said farmers must "change their mind set and approach
cattle ranching as a business" rather than viewing cattle
as symbols of prestige. "It makes more sense to plant grass
which can be fed to their livestock than to plant a crop of maize
which will not mature."
Alfred George Bango,
a small-scale farmer in Matabeleland South's Matobo District,
told IRIN that harvesting grass was alien to the communities, but
that it was an option they were prepared to explore if it prevented
"The rivers dry
up early in this province, and the existing dams are not adequate
to cater to all livestock"
He said, however, that
the government had to provide boreholes for all communities in the
province as "the rivers dry up early in this province, and
the existing dams are not adequate to cater to all livestock."
Innocent Nyathi told local media that in Beitbridge, Gwanda, Matobo
and Mangwe districts, crops planted at the onset of the first rains
had wilted due to a prolonged dry spell.
The Matabeleland South
provincial veterinary officer Mbuso Moyo told IRIN that government
interventions could include vaccinations against foot-and-mouth
and anthrax diseases. Individual or groups of farmers could also
take actions to mitigate cattle losses in the drought-prone province.
"They could do
this by ensuring that they produce or harvest feed for the summer
season and ensur[ing] their livestock is vaccinated. We always urge
them to sell or de-stock when the cattle are in good condition to
attract good prices, and not sell when they are thin and dying as
this does not attract good prices."
The UN Food and Agriculture
Organization (FAO), in the 11 February issue of its Global Food
Price Monitor said stable maize prices had been seen in the capital,
Harare. "However, in areas that experienced production shortfalls
in 2012, price spikes have been observed, notably in southwestern
In its January-to-June
2013 food security outlook for Zimbabwe, the Famine Early Warning
Systems Network (FEWS NET) said that crop production in Matabeleland
North Province and the western part of Matabeleland South "is
likely to be marginally average to below average even if seasonal
rainfall is above normal."
FEWS NET said an area
of concern was the Greater Mudzi Communal livelihood zone in Zimbabwe's
northeast, which relies on rain-fed agriculture for the production
of small grains, maize, groundnuts, sunflowers and small-scale cotton
had poor production in the 2011-2012 agricultural season due to
poor rain quantity and distribution, unavailability of inputs and
lack of draught power. Typically, very poor households in this zone
are largely dependent on food aid, market purchases, casual labour,
some remittances and safety-net cash assistance programming for
their food needs," the food security outlook said.
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