As the drought brought about by El Nino begins to take its toll on Zimbabwe, cattle owners in the southern part of Zimbabwe are reluctantly letting go of their cattle for a song or run the risk of having them due to inadequate pastures and acute water shortages.
Reports state that areas such as Mwenezi and Chiredzi are the hardest hit with some villages selling their beasts for as little as $50 when one would ordinarily go for $400 on average. In Masvingo as many as 5,000 cattle have been lost, and a further two thousand in various other regions including Midlands and Matabeleland South.
With there being very little water to go around, people are now competing for drinking water with the livestock. Agreements have been put in place in the various communities that households keep at least 3 cattle and sell off the rest to avoid losing their prized assets.
Calls have been made on Government to assist, as desperate farmers are being taken advantage of by private abattoirs. Authorities could either drill more boreholes to increase access to water or alternatively grass could be transferred from areas of high concentration to lower ones.
The Midlands Minister of State for Provincial Affairs, Jason Machaya, stated that Government was looking to identify farms with small herds with abundant pastures and relocate cattle from highly affected areas such as Mberengwa and Zvishavane in Midlands. Government has also started a supplementary feeding programme, selling stock feed at subsidised prices.
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