Farming/Agriculture

Gvt sets up ward sales centres, amid severe drought

-bans individual household cattle selling

MARTIN MAWAYA

HARARE-As the country grapples with the most severe drought in the past 40 years, the government is establishing Ward Sales Centres to protect farmers from livestock sales exploitation and manipulation.

The government initiative has targeted the most vulnerable provinces that include Masvingo, Matabeleland South and North, Midlands, and parts of Manicaland.

With the Village Business Units (VBUs) at the ward level being established to help farmers secure the best value for their animals during sales.

Unveiling the “Village Business Centre” concept on Monday in Harare, Lands and Agriculture Deputy Minister, Vangelis Haritatos said the move is significant as many farmers have resorted to panic selling due to the drought.

He stated that “The government will ensure that all cattle sales are conducted through ward-based business units rather than at the household level,” adding that the model will be applied nationwide to streamline and support the sales process.

“To facilitate successful sales, the government will coordinate with abattoir operators and other buyers to attend these ward-based sales.

“In addition to sales coordination, the VBUs will provide essential services such as fodder production, feed formulation and processing, establishment of livestock watering points, and feedlot facilities,” said the deputy minister.

Haritatos added that these efforts will be bolstered by the installation of multi-purpose solar-powered boreholes at VBU sites, ensuring a sustainable water supply.

Furthermore, he detailed comprehensive drought mitigation strategies that the government has adopted to prevent losses across all livestock species.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa has declared the 2023/24 agricultural season a national disaster following the release of alarming findings from the second crop and livestock assessment (CLAFA2).

The CLAFA2 assessment report revealed that there is fair grazing and adequate drinking water in some regions for up to nine months, while the most affected areas have resources for only three months.

It further indicated that during “the 2023/24 lean El Niño season, the driest parts of the country housed approximately 2,882,710 cattle, with 1,488,523 of them at significant risk.”

The government’s comprehensive strategy aims not only to mitigate the immediate impacts but also to build resilience against future droughts, underscoring the urgent need for effective interventions to safeguard Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector.

Meanwhile, farmers in the Midlands province have warmly welcomed the government’s initiative to establish ward-level sales centers where farmers can sell their livestock at better prices.

They said the government strategy will go a long way in protecting them against unscrupulous buyers who have previously taken advantage of farmers by purchasing livestock at very low, unfair rates.

As one local farmer from Shurugwi district, Edinah Matumbu, explained, “I have had to sell most of my livestock for a meagre value of just US$150 in the past. The new ward sales centers will make a huge difference and finally allow us to get the real, fair value for our cattle.”

Another farmer in Chiwundura, ward 14 known as Phiri said “The government’s move to set up these ward sales centers has been a very welcome development. We’ve long struggled with buyers who would exploit us, but now we’ll be able to sell at proper market prices and not be shortchanged.”

The ability to access sales centers right within their own wards is seen as a game-changer that will empower local livestock farmers and ensure they receive a just return on their hard work and investments.

This initiative is widely viewed as an effective government intervention to protect vulnerable smallholder farmers from exploitative practices.

The villagers are optimistic that these government initiatives will lead to more equitable outcomes for farmers and provide them the opportunity to receive the full market value for their hard-earned livestock.

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