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.
According to a 2011 parliamentary profile of the Mangwe district the cattle population was estimated at 37,090. Officially, the province’s chief livestock specialist, Simangaliphi Ngwabi, told IRIN, 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.
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.”
Provincial agronomist 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.
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 parts.”