FARMERS in Matabeleland and the Midlands for the second year running face the bleak prospect of having their cattle dying in numbers due to a shortage of pastures and water.
Last year, Matabeleland South was hardest hit after tens of hundreds of cattle died due to mass starvation and severe water shortages.
The situation was worsened by the government’s belated response to the disaster as supplementary stockfeed only reached farmers just before the start of the rainy season.
Most farmers had lost their cattle when the government intervened and the stockfeed went to waste.
Everyone thought the government had learnt a lesson from the disaster, but alas.
Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers’ Union president Donald Khumalo has this year predicted the situation would be far worse saying in areas such as Kezi in Matabeleland South most water sources had dried up.
The government must not always wait for cattle to die before intervening as has been the case in the past two years.
The region, which is Zimbabwe’s prime ranching area, is bearing the brunt of climate change and this calls for an appropriate response from the government and stakeholders in the agriculture sector.
Most of the dams in Matabeleland and the Midlands dry faster because of siltation and the fact that government has neglected the construction of new ones. Both domestic animals and villagers are running out of sources of reliable water.
The new government has a serious challenge to address the worsening shortages of water in rural areas to minimise the impact of the drought.
Dams and boreholes need to be resuscitated as a matter of urgency because it should be an embarrassment for the country that in 2013 livestock can still perish due to thirst.
The continued loss of livestock also pushes the rural people deeper into poverty and it is high time the government came up with practical solutions to this vicious cycle.
It is our hope that the newly-appointed deputy Agriculture minister responsible for livestock, Paddy Zhanda, would take the crisis in Midlands and Matabeleland seriously and marshal resources to avert a disaster.
A lasting solution also has to be found because it is clear droughts have become permanent phenomenon due to climate change.