Cattle farming is serious business…need to counter technical obstacles

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THE ongoing ‘Cattle: Zimbabwe’s custodial heritage’ column is intended to advise the nation’s smallholder livestock farmers and proffer a vision of the country’s new bid to adopt cutting edge technologies in livestock production envisaged through the Command Agriculture Programme.
Currently, under the auspices of Minister of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement Cde Perence Shiri, new farming practices will boost agriculture and livestock production, envisaged to grow by 10,7 percent in the 2018-2019 agricultural season. Given cattle rearing is currently very competitive internationally, Zimbabwe ought to introduce digital farming at grassroots level.
Smallholder farmers in Hwedza, Chikomba, Guruve, Makwiro, Lomagundi District and the lower Midlands areas cited access to good pasture, ample water reserves, new technologies, shortages of dipping chemicals and the usual lack of capital as some of the major drawbacks to fulfilling the envisaged national food security.
This informal survey revealed that access to livestock training, agricultural extension services with professional officers equipped with the requisite knowledge in livestock husbandry and the latest agricultural practices, as well as adequate training and information regarding agro-business such as livestock abattoir practices, livestock auctions and the development of better breeds are matters of great concern.
To transform the agricultural sector, particularly livestock rearing, the need for well-trained agricultural extension officers (madhumeni) cannot be over emphasised.
However, extension officers interviewed by The Patriot confessed ignorance of new technologies and said they were not capacitated with transport and refresher workshops on new and up-to-date methods of cattle husbandry.
During this time of the year, many smallholder farmers may fall victim to veld fires, which inevitably can drastically devastate precious paddocks and the much-needed veld pastures.
This yearly occurrence also requires extension service education on how to create and manage fireguards and preserve precious pastures during this volatile time of the year where conditions conducive for veld fires and dangerous to valuable livestock is at peak at the beginning of summer, before the rains.
Many rural cattle farmers also requested for Government assistance for the harnessing of water supplies for both drinking and public dipping sites for cattle.
National dipping programmes, established during the pre-independence era, need to be re-initiated with a view to assisting the marginalised rural communal farmers.
The AGRITEC gathering held in May 2018 in Tel Aviv, Israel, noted that in a changing world, agricultural production has to contend with many growing challenges. These includes extreme weather phenomena, global water deficiency and wide-spread desertification.
Africa, and in this case Zimbabwe, needs to rise to the occasion and counter technical obstacles and the weather phenomena that require extensive agro-extension research, profound tactics and durable national solutions to ensure long-term agro-business sustainability and national food security.
Today, the cattle rancher and agriculturalist has to be able to tend to and rehabilitate our Zimbabwean pastures as well as being wary of environmental consequences and the possible weather phenomena that may affect the national cattle production.
Diseases that had long since been isolated and eradicated are currently recurring due to climate change, poor veld management, irregular animal husbandry practices and, most of all, the disease known as ‘ignorance’.
National extension services and veterinary support are slack and require technical bolstering, public education and training of rural cattle farmers and Government intervention to normalise cattle production before it is too late.
However, to make meaningful progress in transforming the livestock sector in Zimbabwe, and its auxiliary agricultural services, up-to-date training workshops of both the farmer and extension offices is paramount, particularly for the new African rural farmers.
Subsidised chemicals, veterinary programmes and training in this new digital age is important, given that our current support systems are in dire need of renewal in order to be up to speed with current global technology.
To unlock the agricultural potential of small-holder cattle ranches on communal lands in Zimbabwe, the state needs to develop micro-financial services and subsidised agro-chemicals and products in order to maintain the health of the national herd.
In order to restore Zimbabwe’s once robust cattle sector and to augment communal farming businesses, education on cattle husbandry and agro-business will have a profound ripple effect on rural development, agro productivity growth, as well as employment creation in the nation.
Cattle farming is no longer ‘mahumbwe’ (child’s play).
It has become globally competitive and technologically advanced.
In essence, we need to introduce and develop scientific technology for the rural farming communities, a lack of which currently compromises optimum productivity in the cattle livestock industry.
Such services can be provided at demonstrative agro- education farms.
Dr Tony Monda holds a PhD in Art Theory and Philosophy and a DBA (Doctorate in Business Administration) and Post-Colonial Heritage Studies. He is a writer, lecturer, musician, art critic, practising artist and corporate image consultant. He is also a specialist art consultant, post-colonial scholar, Zimbabwean socio-economic analyst and researcher.For views and comments, email: tonym.MONDA@gmail.com

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