Command Livestock Programme kicks off

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GAMBIA Farming Ploughing with oxen after a drought.

GOVERNMENT recently launched a Special Livestock, Fisheries and Wildlife Programme US$300 million facility focusing on dairy revitalisation programme, aquaculture and livestock disease control to enhance the quality and size of the national herd, to guarantee self-sufficiency and secure export markets.
The move follows the successful implementation of Command Agriculture aimed at ensuring the country achieves food security and nutrition as well as empower the people.
Government has already set aside
US$80 million to kick-start the programme with the remaining US$220 million funding expected to be drawn from the private sector.
Part of the US$80 million will be channelled towards national parks to demarcate red and green zones which will help control the spread of foot and mouth diseases and curtail domestic and wildlife conflict.
To enhance the various livestock programmes, Public Private Partnerships would be supported through favourable conditions under the Livestock, Finance Schemes, Joint Ventures, Out-grower or contract production, Cattle Grazer Schemes (through Cold Storage Company) and Processor Financing.
Farmers, as primary producers, will access loans with three-to-five year tenure at a modest comprehensive interest rate of four percent per annum.
Farmers have welcomed the Command Livestock Programme.
Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers’ Union president Wonder Chabikwa said the programme would promote continued growth in livestock production.
“With such a programme in place, livestock production is set to increase,” Chabikwa said.
“The past seasons, livestock production, just as crop production, was negatively affected by the shifting rainfall patterns and this facility is a boost towards efforts to grow the national herd.”
During the 2015/2016 summer cropping season, livestock producers were hard-hit by the drought that not only affected Zimbabwe, but the southern African region, due to the effects of El-Nino.
This resulted in deaths of livestock.
However, last season, the national herd increased from 5,3 million recorded during the same period last year to 5,5 million.
According to the Crop and Livestock Assessment Report issued by the Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Ministry, the national herd increased by four percent during the 2016/2017 cattle production season.
The report indicated that 90 percent of the cattle were owned by smallholder farmers with the communal sector owning 68 percent, A1 owning 11 percent and seven percent from resettlement areas.
Chabikwa said Command Livestock would ensure an increase in players practising livestock production.
The historic Land Reform Programme of 2000 led to an increase of indigenous farmers taking up livestock production.
Prior to the programme, most local farmers were not involved in commercial livestock production which was deemed a preserve of white commercial farmers.
Communal farmers kept small herds of domestic animals mainly for consumption and draught power in the fields.
In Zimbabwe, there is a wide variety of domesticated animals including cattle, pigs, goats, poultry and sheep.
The other major commercial livestock species are domesticated wildlife in the form of ostrich, fish and crocodiles.
“Livestock production for local farmers was done at small-scale level but with Government’s support, there will definitely be an increase in the number of people taking up the trade,” he said.
“Under this programme, we see Government supporting communities that are part of district irrigation schemes to start up fish production. This is commendable as we are advising farmers to augment crop production, which is the main strength of many, with livestock production.”
The continuing increase in the uptake of commercial livestock production is in line with efforts by Government to preserve and boost the national herd which stands at five million.
Government plans to increase the herd to 25 million.
Over the years, farmers’ efforts to grow the herd have been derailed by a number of challenges such as lack of adequate funding to purchase feeds, dipping chemicals and loss of livestock to thieves.
Strategies have been put in place to ensure farmers do not continue to have their efforts go to waste.
To curb stock theft, a police taskforce (the Zimbabwe Republic Police Anti-Stock Theft Unit) was put in place to formulate strategies to protect the farmers.
Government intends to introduce a livestock industry development fund to ensure that the sector is adequately funded.
Plans are underway to strengthen veterinary services though the promotion of the establishment of veterinary infrastructure.
Despite the challenges bedevilling the sub-sector Government has continued to urge stakeholders to work together to boost the sector.
As the sector continues to grow it is hoped more farmers would venture into livestock production and ensure the sub-sector contributes meaningfully to the economy.

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