THE EU-funded Value Chain Alliance for Livestock Upgrading and Empowerment (VALUE) project officially opened the Rushinga Goat Improvement Centre (GIC) which is set to be a primary business hub for small and medium goat producers.

The centre, which was completed in December 2020, is expected to offer various services such as breed improvement, dipping, veterinary drug sales, sale of fodder seed as well as aggregation of bulk slaughter stock.

The Zimbabwe Agricultural Growth Programme (ZAGP) VALUE project has constructed similar centres in 11 other districts of Beitbridge, Binga, Buhera, Chikomba, Chipinge, Gwanda, Lupane, Matobo, Mbire, Mudzi and Nkayi.

The VALUE project is part of an EU-funded ZAGP, a response to challenges within the country’s livestock sector through financial support from the EU amounting to 40 million pounds.

VALUE project team leader Newton Chari said ZAGP seeks to contribute to the development of a diversified and efficient agriculture sector that promotes inclusive green economic growth.
“Covering Zimbabwe’s 10 provinces, ZAGP is addressing the weaknesses and gaps in livestock value chains to contribute towards increasing productivity, production and incomes,” he said.

“Focus is on increasing profitability, building the capacity of farmers, service institutions and private sector through increased investment, institutional reforms and policy alignment.”
Chari said the project is aimed at improving the knowledge of goat producers.

“Our objective remains to increase production, productivity, market competitiveness and organisational efficiencies of small to medium producers,” he said.

“Thus far, we have found the GICs as hubs necessary to contribute to our objective which will ultimately lead to the commercialisation agenda.

“Importantly, these centres are providing platforms for engagements with key stakeholders for the creation of conducive business environments in the districts.”

With financial assistance from the EU, ActionAid Zimbabwe, together with its goat value chain implementing partners (COSV, Mercy Corps, Zvikomborero Farms and Michview Enterprises) imported 312 goat breeding stock from Namibia to address production challenges caused by use of inferior breeds and inbreeding. 

The breeding stock was distributed among four institutions for multiplication, namely Zvikomborero Farm, Michview Enterprises, Matopo and Grasslands Research Institutes. Furthermore, two bucks were delivered to each goat improvement centre for mating services under the management of the Goat Producers Business Associations (GPBAs).

“Rushinga goat farmers have started to realise the utility of the goat improvement centre,” said COSV country director Tsuro Bore. 

“They are dipping their goats, accessing mating services, drawing lessons on animal nutrition from the fodder plots and, above all, seeing the benefits of collective marketing of goats.

“The potential for further success is evident.”
The Rushinga GPBA business development officer, Regis Kasako commended the organisations for the support rendered to local farmers.

“We are grateful for the support rendered by the VALUE project and the EU in constructing this centre which has addressed various challenges we were facing in the district,” he said.

“We are now dipping our goats, accessing veterinary drugs, growing fodder crops and selling our goats collectively and directly to consumers and this has increased our profit margins by at least US$3 per goat.”

Over the years, there has been an increasing number of local farmers keeping goats for commercial purposes. 

Goat farming business has proved to be a very profitable business to operate as the demand for goat meat is increasing.
Goats are easy to keep and are profitable as the feed costs are low due to the fact that they eat a variety of foods.

As a show of support to the booming business venture, Government, last year, commissioned the Bindura University of Science Education (BUSE) Goat Genetics and Artificial Insemination Centre.

Commissioning the project, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said goat breeding projects and attendant value addition interventions would go a long way towards ensuring broad-based empowerment, wealth creation and lifting millions out of poverty within our society.

He suggested that these project be deployed towards the realisation of robust and vibrant rural industry systems supported by livestock production and related development of modern animal handling facilities.

The Goat Genetics and Artificial Insemination Centre was a welcome development that serves to get a grip on genetics as a key ingredient in sustainable and successful goat farming.
Zimbabwean breeds have not been subjected to adequate scientific scrutiny.

However, a lot of work still has to be done to unlock the potential and promise of goat farming that can uplift millions of our people from poverty. 

With a national goat herd of approximately four million, Zimbabwe is barely on the map of goat-producing countries.

Local goat farmers are favoured by the existence of abundant land and suitable climatic conditions that can be leveraged to boost their national herd to 25 million by year 2025 should the current situation turn for the better.

Very little attention is given to goats, which explains the 65 percent pre-weaning mortality rate.
Goats also tend to live in unbearable conditions that compromise their health, with pneumonia being a leading killer.

In addition, the market also poses a challenge as middlemen and the farmers only regard goats as an object for transaction.

There is also currently an ongoing frenzy about mixing local goat breed with foreign breeds such as Boer, Red Kalahari and Savannah, among others.

While there is no fundamental problem with cross breeding, the matter is presented like a quick fix.
However, it does not address the core of why the local Mashona and Matabele breeds have progressively grown smaller due to inbreeding.

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