Thupeyo Muleya Beitbridge Bureau
Livestock production is one of the major economic drivers in the Matabeleland region and there is need for Government to capacitate communal farmers to commercialise their operations to boost economic growth at provincial level.
Matabeleland South alone has an estimated herd of 650 000 cattle and thousands of goats and sheep.
Zimbabwe Livestock Farmers’ Association chairman Mr Sifiso Sibanda said in an interview yesterday that the farmers could only reap the benefits form their herds if they were supported with the right skills, tools and marketing.
“It is known that in an agro-based economy, that the only product that is known in Matabeleland South is livestock,” he said. “You will realise that we can’t grow crops here because we fall in a dry region.
“The economy of Matabeleland South is based on livestock and this includes both domestic animals and game. These are the areas people can exploit and from our point of view, what has been the missing link now in the livestock economy has been the failure to commercialise the sector.
“You will note that most communal farmers in this area know how to raise the animals, it’s in their DNA, but there are no linkages between them and the markets. The fact that there are no linkages to the market shows that people don’t understand what the markets want.”
Mr Sibanda said it was important for the farmers to change grades or upgrade the breeds in Matabeleand South.
To realise that feat, said Mr Sibanda, there was a need for Government to build capacity for the farmers to realise the benefits of commercialised livestock production.
Mr Sibanda said the farmers needed training on understanding of changing markets trends, vaccination, grading and breeding of cattle, goats and sheep.
He said the public abattoirs, together with other related livestock management assistance, will help to change the marketing strategy of goats, sheep and cattle.
Mr Sibanda said the set-up favoured those businesses in big cities.
He said it was also critical for provincial structures to plan properly on how they can support livestock farmers, especially those seeking to upgrade their cattle, goats and sheep breeds.
Mr Sibanda said cattle farmers should strive to reduce calves mortality rate and to migrate from traditional breeds —Matabele goats, sheep and cattle and mixed breeds) — and focus on improved livestock breds such as Kalahari and Boer goats, Doper sheep and the beefmasters, Simmental and Bonsmara cattle that add value on the markets.