The Sunday Mail
ON October 16, 2015, which was a World Food Day, the Feed the Future Livestock Development programme was officially launched in Harare amid pomp and fanfare.
Running until 2020, the programme is targeted at increasing the incomes and food security for 1 800 beef and 1 200 dairy households in Zimbabwe.
The farmers are benefiting from a US$11 million five-year USAid-funded programme which is boosting milk yields and improve livelihoods and is being implemented in six districts in Manicaland, Midlands and Matabeleland South.
Apart from providing technical assistance to farmers to better their animal husbandry practices, the programme is creating employment and reducing rural poverty.
A recent media tour to the projects sites in Chirumhanzu, Gokwe South, Umzingwane and Gweru revealed that the programme, which is run by Fintrac, has, to a greater extent, achieved the bulk of its intended goals.
The programme has greatly increased incomes, created employment and is enhancing the livelihoods of rural farmers through agricultural production.
Targeting smallholder dairy farmers in Natural Regions 3 and 4 and smallholder beef farmers in Natural Regions 4 and 5, the programme is a practical example of how smallholder beef and dairy farmers can commercialise by increasing production and productivity while reducing costs.
One of the programme’s specific intervention is the promotion of a beef-diary model that allows low-risk entry into commercial dairy farming.
The model is complemented by a village aggregation model which scales the marketing of milk to formal markets.
Mrs Sarah Ndodha, of Rusununguko Village, Ward 11 in Chirumhanzu, is one of the many rural farmers whose lives have been transformed by this whole-farm approach.
“Before the introduction of this programme, I used to produce milk which was in excess of my household consumption. I used to give away the milk to my neighbours. Everything changed when this programme was introduced,” Mrs Ndodha said.
As part of the programme, Mrs Ndodha was taught low-cost feeding technologies that improve productivity, health and nutrition of her herd.
“Instead of having my cows roaming around scrounging for food, I now pen-feed them. I was taught how to produce my own feed and how to properly milk the beef cows,” Mrs Ndodha said.
She said she can now afford to look after her family as she is now selling more milk to Dairiboard.
“I used to pester my children, asking for money to pay cattle levies. From the three cows that I milk, I am now getting more than 120 litres in two days and after selling the milk, I am now able to buy all household necessities,” Mrs Ndodha added.
An aggregator, Mrs Ndodha collects milk from other farmers and deliver it to the Dairibord depot in Gweru.
She and members of the Bata Pako milk collection group are producing 120 litres of milk, up from just 25 litres when they started in 2017.
Mrs Franscisca Paramu, of Umsungwe Block, some 20 kilometres outside Gweru, is already one foot into commercial dairy farming.
“I started off with two beef cows that I fed and properly looked after. I then used the money that I realised from the sale of the milk to buy pure dairy breeds. I am now realising more than $5 000 every month,” Mrs Paramu said.
Among the dairy breeds owned by Mrs Paramu are Simmental, a dual purpose breed, and Red Dane calves.
Apart from increasing milk production from 76 litres in 2018 to 654 litres a month, Mr Patrick Bhebhe, of Murambadoro Village in Gokwe South has also managed to increase his herd.
“As a result of the proper feeding, my cows are now able to produce calves every year. In the past, I lost many calves since I was not looking after them properly. I was given technical assistance to look after the calves and I am happy to say that I am yet to lose a calf,” Mr Bhebhe said.
After every two days, Mr Bhebhe delivers more than 76 litres to the nearby Gokwe Milk Collection Centre.
“I could produce more milk if I had a refridgerator for keeping my milk cold. Having a refridgerator means that I would milk my cows twice daily as opposed to milking them once,” he said.
Mr Meynard Chirima, a livestock expert of the Feed the Future Zimbabwe Livestock Development Programme who also supervises the Midlands province said the programme is working towards addressing such challenges as the one that Mr Bhebhe is facing.
“As opposed to donating, we are saying farmers should also use the money they get from selling their milk to acquire refridgerators and solar panels. By acquiring these items on their own, the farmers will properly take care of the items as compared to having donated items,” said Mr Chirima.
Mrs Siyengiwe Machina of Hlomayi Village, again in Gokwe South, was partly sponsored by the programme and is now a proud owner of a refridgerator.
“I sold my four cattle and bought a refridgerator and solar panels. I was also partly sponsored by the programme. I am in the process of selling seven more cattle so that I can have a borehole drilled. I will also be partly sponsored by the programme,” Mrs Machina said.
Demand for milk in Zimbabwe is growing and currently stands at some 120 million litres a year. Farmers are only producing 60 million litres.
To boost productivity, the Government launched the Diary Revitalisation Programme as part of efforts to revive the dairy industry.
Government is targeting to grow the cow herd to around 30 000 cows by 2022. The interventions are expected to progressively reduce the 60 million litres milk supply deficit.
According to the Zimbabwe Association of Dairy Farmers (ZADF), the dairy total herd has fallen from 119 220 dairy cows in 1990 to about 26 502 by 2013.