Seconds from disaster
Skeletal remains of animals lay scattered in Chibuwe area, in Chipinge after succumbing to starvation. Photo by Fintrac

Seconds from disaster

Emeldah Takaona
Within a space of two weeks, Thokozani Mapindu of Rimbi village in southern Chipinge, Manicaland lost seven cattle to starvation.
Chipinge received well below normal rainfall during the 2014/15 agricultural season, resulting in poor foliage growth and depleted grazing lands. Consequently, five of the most hard-hit wards recorded 10 cattle deaths per day on average.
The Feed the Future Zimbabwe Livestock Development Programme, which is part of the US government’s global hunger initiative, entered the district just in time to address the precarious situation. Programme technicians trained farmers on how to use supplementary feed such as beef survival meal to maintain their animals’ overall body condition scores during the lean season.
The maintenance meal is made especially for cattle in very dry areas during times of drought.
The high-fibre and cost-effective feed nourishes beef animals and enables them to withstand the dry season with little or no stress. Each animal requires between two and five kilogrammes of survival meal on a daily basis.
At the time, local stockfeed distributors in Chiredzi, Chipinge, and Mutare did not stock the maintenance meal, prompting the programme to negotiate with suppliers to avail stock.
A major meat processor and stock feed supplier was producing very small quantities for its beef cattle suppliers. After a series of successful negotiations, the supplier and a major stock-feed manufacturer and supplier began offering the beef survival meal for smallholders in Chipinge.
Through the awareness raised by the Feed the Future Zimbabwe Livestock Development Programme, farmers came out in droves to procure the survival meal.
“This programme is a very good initiative as we have managed to salvage our livestock just in the nick of time,” said Ladson Mubonesi, who has so far procured 300kg of survival meal for his eight animals.
In total, an estimated 550 farmers in seven wards in Chipinge saved 1 600 cattle from disaster thanks to the survival meal. On average, a farmer requires at least US$25 worth of survival meal per animal to supplement them through the most critical period.Some of the first programme beneficiaries to buy the survival meal took advantage of the situation to grow their herd sizes by purchasing other farmers’ skeletal animals.
“I bought six cattle from my neighbours at prices ranging from US$25 to US$100 per live animal,” said Rosemary Gangaidzo from Rimbi. She now has a herd of nine animals.
Feed the Future Zimbabwe Livestock Development Programme, which began in June 2015 and will run through June 2020, is sustainably reducing rural poverty and increasing incomes and food security for 3 000 beef and 2 000 dairy smallholder farmers.
The programme commercialises smallholder beef and dairy farmers by increasing production and productivity and reducing unit costs of production to improve overall smallholder competitiveness in the beef and dairy sector.The programme expands the availability of and access to inputs by establishing new partnerships between input suppliers and farmers and increasing demand for smallholder-produced beef and dairy products.Working mainly with smallholder farmers, the Feed the Future Zimbabwe Livestock Development Programme introduces low-to-no-cost interventions that improve the productivity, health, and nutrition of smallholder beef and dairy herds.
Currently, the programme is preparing farmers for the anticipated drought season by encouraging them to grow fodder crops for supplementary feed.

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