Little or no rain at all has led to poor yields as well as poor pastures for livestock in Hwange. Subsistence farmers in the drought prone district are left with losses to count as their livestock succumb to starvation.
The farmers in the communal land drive their cattle several kilometers in search of pastures for the livestock whilst having to contend with limit access to drinking water for their animals.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) together with the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD) and Caritas Hwange have come together to assist the Hwange farmers. The programme which started in early November was meant to cushion farmers from the devastating economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic together with the drought has hit most of the rural farmers.
The project which is being implemented by Caritas will see more than 3000 households in rural communities benefit from sorghum and cowpeas seed as well as cattle survival feed for their livestock.
In an interview, Mr Super Dube the Hwange Caritas Coordinator who represented the NGOs says the support for farmers comes after the realization of the effects of COVID-19 on the farmers.
“This support comes after the global pandemic of COVID-19 has put the farmers and livestock at risk of starvation. The farmers could not get the stock feed due to the impacts of COVID -19 which include travel restrictions,” said Dube.
He says the organization liaised with the Agritex department in the selections of the hardest hit Wards to receive either the seed or livestock package. A total of 8 Wards benefited from the programme.
“Each household got 550kgs of stockfeed. In total, the rural communities received 10 tonnes sorghum, 5 tonnes of cow peas and 699 tonnes of stockfeed. A total number of 3215 cattle benefited from the program,” said Mr Dube.
Dube says the once off stock feed is only for the month of November as it will help farmers and their livestock until there is adequate grass in the fields.
Meanwhile, more than 4,500 cattle have died in Matabeleland region from hunger, a 500 percent increase over last year, according to an earlier report from the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement.
More than 75% of smallholder farmers in Zimbabwe depend on crop-livestock farming and use cereal crop residues to supplement livestock feed. The residue is low in nutrition and inadequate to maintain animal health during dry periods, affecting household nutrition and bringing down the market value of livestock.
Lack of market access, prolonged dry season, livestock death, and poor income are key challenges faced by smallholder farmers and climate change is threatening agricultural productivity in Matebeleland North Province.