Dairy farming changing Rusitu lives

When things were not working well for Rudo Jack and her husband, as is the traditional decision in most families which share a rural background, they decided that she retreats to their rural home in Chipinge.

“Things were not working out well in Harare, from rentals, food and our general welfare. So we resolved that I come here. And I was to start from scratch,” she narrated recently.

With a few chickens, the free range ones, she started a journey that she never thought would see her one day owning a dairy cow. Today, 39-year-old Jack says she is ready to take her next delivery of dairy cows.

“I am not looking forward to one but five cows in the next allocation. I have proved beyond doubt that I am more than able to look after just one cow,” she said, rather confidently.

After rearing her chickens, she sold a number of them and bought her first goat, which went on to multiply.

And when the call was made in their village that those who wanted could enrol for a dairy cow scheme, she readily accepted the offer.

She sold a number of her goats and used the proceeds to pay the deposit that was required to join the dairy scheme. Now, every day she sends her milk to a collection centre, where her delivery is acknowledged. After a fortnight she receives the returns from her delivery, minus her repayment towards the cow. She has up to three years to pay for the cow, after which it becomes hers. Whilst Jack is running the dairy project on her own, others have come together in the Rusitu area of Chipinge to form dairy associations and they sell their milk as a group.

Mathias Khumbula, the chairperson of Rusitu Dairy Association, said they enjoy numbers as an association.

“Our average yield per day is 200 litres, a figure that one cannot achieve by themselves. As well, as a group we get a number of benefits, which one cannot enjoy as an individual. We recently had a tractor and hay-baler donated to our association.”

Typical of smallholder farming, Jack faces a number of obstacles in her promising dairy project, chief among them being access to water.

“I have to go to the river and fetch water every day to give to the cow. As for silage, I use my garden to grow vegetables, especially cabbages, which I then feed to the cow.”

On top of the dairy cow, her flock of goats has since grown to 14 and the free-roaming chickens literally litter her yard.

Noah Mlambo, another stand-alone dairy farmer with a herd of eight cows, enjoys a better daily yield of milk per cow because he uses napier fodder, a type of grass that is used to feed animals.

“I resorted to growing my own fodder after realising that it is expensive to buy supplements for the cows. Plus the grass is very healthy as it contains a number of nutrients,” he explained.

Immaculate Paidamoyo Dhliwayo, who co-ordinates on behalf of the Food and Nutrition Council at district level, said such interventions as the dairy projects are critical in helping communities offset shocks that might result in stunting.

“There are so many factors that cause stunting, though there is a general misconception that nutrition is the main driver, so these interventions help contain the situation.

“Just the relaxed state of mind will help a family reduce stunting, something which can be achieved by stable financial returns from such projects,” she said.

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