EDITORIAL COMMENT: Time to revitalise beef production

Zimbabwe is divided into five agro-ecological regions, known as natural regions on the basis of the rainfall regime, soil quality and vegetation among other factors.

The quality of the land resource declines from Natural Region four (IV) through to  Natural Region five (V), (Moyo, 2000; Vincent and Thomas, 1961).

Natural Region four is located in the low-lying areas in the north and south of the country. The characteristics of the region are: annual rainfall of 450-650mm, severe dry spells during the rainy season, and frequent seasonal droughts.

Although NR (IV) is considered unsuitable for dry land cropping, smallholder farmers grow drought-tolerant varieties of maize, sorghum, pearl millet (mhunga) and finger millet (rapoko). NR IV is ideally suitable for cattle production under extensive production systems and for wildlife production.

Natural Region five covers the lowland areas below 900m above sea level in both the north and south of the country. The rainfall is less than 650mm/year and highly erratic. Although NR (V) receives reasonable rainfall in the northern part of Zimbabwe along the Zambezi River, its uneven topography and poor soils make it unsuitable for crop production.

Generally, NR V is suitable for extensive cattle production and game-ranching.

Although both regions four and five are too dry for crop production, households on the communal lands in these regions grow grain crops (maize and millet) for their food security and some cash crops such as cotton. Crop yields are extremely low and the risk of crop failure is high in one out of three years. Cattle and goat production are major sources of cash income (Rukuni and Eicher, 1994).

The above information therefore shows there is great scope for success in animal husbandry in regions and four and five and the launch of the Command Livestock Programme by Government, especially for the people of Bulawayo and Matabeleland South provinces and parts of Matabeleland North, Masvingo and Midlands is indeed sweet music. These are the provinces that pretty much fall under regions four and five.

The Command Agriculture Programme was a resounding success with the country managing to get unprecedented crop produce and the same is expected from Command Livestock, where farmers are given cattle and other technical assistance to boost animal production.

The project is aimed at revitalising the beef industry in the country and also help reopen foreign markets for meat exports. And there is no better time to do that than now when President Mnangagwa has told the world that Zimbabwe is open for business.

The Command Livestock programme was launched in Matabeleland South early this year and on Friday, 1660 cattle were handed over to A1, A2 and communal farmers in the province by President Mnangagwa, which showed that the Government, under President Mnangagwa, really walks the talk.

At the launch early this year, Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga handed over the first batch of 200 heifers to 66 cattle farmers from two provinces of Matabeleland North and South under the $300 million Command Livestock, Fisheries and Wildlife Programme.

The programme is a public-private sector partnership that supports production of high nutrition animal source food products under the Food Security and Nutrition Cluster in line with the Zim-Asset blue-print and the registration and contracting of future beneficiaries is ongoing.

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