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Traditional leaders in Beitbridge District have appealed to Government for tractors to till farming land for smallholder farmers who lost their draught power to drought-induced deaths.
Statistics from the local Agriculture Extension Services (Agritex) office show that farmers have lost a total of 4 548 cattle due to drought-related deaths.
It is also understood that an estimated 15 000 people are in need of food aid in the area.
Speaking during an annual traditional leaders interface held a Chief Matibe’s cultural court recently, the community leaders said most people relied on cattle as draught power to till their farming fields.
They said a lot of people were distressed and that most of their cattle were in bad shape to be used in the farmlands.
“We are in the midst of a devastating drought and the people are hopeful that we would have good rains for cropping,” said Chief Matibe.
“However, it is sad to note that almost every homestead here has lost some cattle which we rely on not only as a source of livelihood, but as draught power.
“Our appeal to Government is that through the District Development Fund (DDF) or any agency they provide tractors to till at least one hectare for the smallholder farmers.
“The cattle are in bad shape to the extent that it would be bad to use them on the small fields.
The situation has also been made worse by the poor state of pastures and diminishing natural and man-made water sources.
“At the same time I want to urge the smallholder farmers to continue supplementing stock feeds for their animals to avoid many poverty deaths induced by food shortages.”
Chief Matibe said the water situation and grazing lands remained critical, although the district had started receiving relative rains.
The Herald understands that the five major agriculture weather stations in the district have recorded below normal rains and most water sources and boreholes are drying up.
There are 1 350 registered boreholes in the district and 32 small dams, most of which are not functioning at full capacity due to siltation.
Beitbridge Agritex officer Mr Masauso Mawocha said the livestock situation remained “fair to poor”.
“Generally, the situation on the ground is very desperate,” he said.
“The rains distribution was not even, some areas were very dry and cattle are dying with farmers loosing over 4 548 beasts.
“In terms of dryland crop production, the farmers have only managed to till 60 hectares and work is in progress in most irrigation schemes.”
The official said a total of 23 000 farmers received small grains, 6 000 maize seed, 8 400 fertilisers and 4 000 fall armyworm chemicals under the Presidential Inputs Support Scheme.
Beitbridge District is a drought prone area where animal husbandry and irrigation farming are the main source of livelihoods for communal farmers.
It is estimated that there are 200 000 cattle, 145 000 goats, 60 000 sheep, 37 000 donkeys, 2 000 pigs and 28 000 poultry birds in the district.