The Sunday Mail
The recent launch of the US$45 million Zimbabwe Agricultural Growth Programme (ZAGP) is set to transform the livestock sector, which is facing a plethora of challenges, chief among them being regular disease outbreaks and the soaring cost of feedstock.
Unavailability of funding, droughts, inadequate farming practices, lack of skills and insufficient extension services are some of the challenges bedeviling the livestock sector.
Funded by the European Union (EU), ZAGP is expected to boost the livestock sector by maximising smallholder farmers’ profits and improving competitiveness on the domestic and international markets. Mr Thembinkosi Nyathi, the communication focal person for ZAGP, outlined the programme’s intended goals.
“The livestock sector in Zimbabwe contributes significantly to the growth and development of the national economy. However, the sector faces several challenges, thereby limiting its contribution to the national economy and adversely affecting the livelihoods and food security of farmers.
“ZAGP will tackle some of the challenges through financial support from the EU. The programme mainly targets small to large scale producers, private sector integrators, processors, research organisations, farmers’ unions, financial services providers as well as the public and civil society bodies,” Mr Nyathi said.
The programme will be implemented by partners who will focus on different value chains and projects within the livestock sector.
For the beef sector, the Beef Enterprise Strengthening and Transformation (BEST) programme is set to transform the livelihoods of farmers and other players in the beef value chain.
The Inclusive Poultry Value Chain (IPVC) focuses on poultry products while the Transforming Zimbabwe’s Diary Value Chain for the Future programme targets the dairy sector.
For pigs and goats, the Value Chain Alliance for Livestock Upgrading and Empowerment (VALUE) programme will aim at transforming that sector. Some of the partners will undertake the Zimbabwe Agricultural Knowledge and Innovation Services (ZAKIS) as well as the Transforming Zimbabwe’s Animal Health and Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS)/ Food safety Systems for the Future (SAFE) programmes.
The BEST programme is being run by the World Vision and the programme’s team leader, Mr Mark Benson, explained the scope of the initiative.
“I feel sorry for small-holder farmers. They always get raw deals from agro-dealers who overprice the essentials. Some cattle buyers also pay ridiculously low prices. The programme will help farmers get the best prices for their cattle.
“Demonstration plots in rural areas will be established and farmers will be taught how to correctly feed and look after their cattle. Farmers will also be taught how to produce their own cattle feed.”
According to Mr Benson, 10 cattle centres will be opened in five provinces.
Mr Newton Chari, the VALUE team leader, which is responsible for goats and pigs, said the project will run for four years and will be implemented in Manicaland, Matabeleland South, Mashonaland Central, Matabeleland North, Mashonaland West and Mashonaland East.
According to Mr Chari, the project will improve production, organisational efficiencies and market competitiveness in the commercial supply of safe, quality-assured pork and goat meat products.
“We are going to set up 12 Goat Improvement Centres in 12 districts to provide primary business support services such as hands-on training for goat farmers and also offer breeding services. We are also going to identify and train 1 000 anchor farmers to support the small-scale farmers in the 12 districts,” he said.
Goat holding centres will also be established to enable abattoirs and supermarkets to buy goats in bulk at central places.
As for the pork value chain, the partner will work with the Pig Industry Board and private players to establish Pork Production Business Syndicates (PPBS).
Anchor farmers will then identify and train 400 pig producers, with the project supporting a further 600 young farmers and women with the knowledge to commercially rear pigs.
In total, 800 000 goat producers and 56 000 pig farmers are set to benefit.
The IPVC intervention seeks to promote and support the development of small to medium sized poultry farmer groups into business associations, co-operatives and out-grower schemes.
The objective of this development is to provide market and service linkages, encourage greater production efficiency and profitability as well as to improve terms of trade for fair value realisation along the value chain.
ZAKIS aims to establish — together with the education, research and extension departments of the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement — some market-oriented and farmer-centred knowledge and information systems.
Ambassador Timo Olkkonen, the head of delegation of the European Union in Zimbabwe, said the availed funds will go a long way in transforming the livestock sector.
“Our objective is for this investment to reduce risk perception in the livestock sector. lt will encourage more investment, which will improve productivity and competitiveness in the domestic and regional markets.”
Government, through the Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement, Retired Air Marshall Perrance Shiri, welcomed the initiative, describing it as timely and transformational.
“Government will work with the ZAGP to cover some of the gaps that were created by the challenges facing the sector. The EU’s intervention is timely and will transform the livestock sector,” the Minister said in a speech which was read on his behalf by Mashonaland West Minister of State for Provincial Affairs, Honourable Mary Mliswa-Chikoka.