Good Times Roll for Zimbabwe’s Livestock Breeders

By Tomson Phiri — 23 August 2014

Ntabazinduna – Ben Khumalo, a seventy-two year old pensioner from Ntabazinduna, recounts the horror of losing his herd of nine cattle after a raging tick-borne outbreak in 2009 and the ensuing struggle of making ends meet. He squarely blames such tragedy on the inadequacy of dip tanks in his area. He has since picked himself up and boasts of a healthy heard of 17 cattle which he now takes for dipping regularly at the Mfanyana Dip Tank, recently constructed with the help of fellow villagers through WFP’s Productive Asset Creation activities.

For many smallholder farmers in Zimbabwe’s dry Matabeleland region, livestock is the only ready source of cash to buy inputs for crop production such as seeds, fertilizers and pesticides. Livestock income is also allocated towards things farmers must resource outside the house, including paying for school fees and medicine. In the Matabeleland region, income from cropping is highly seasonal. Larger animals such as cattle are a capital reserve; they are built up in good times and used when crops are poor or when the family must pay off large expenses such as a hospital bill or college fees for their children.

“I used to sell my cow for US$200,” says Ben, “now we sell cattle for US$450 because they are healthy.”

Livestock breeders such as Ben struggled to fend off tick borne diseases with the nearest dip tank 12 km away from their village. In 2013, WFP and a partner NGO, Hope for a Child in Christ, assisted the Ntabazinduna community with creating a dip tank in the well-trodden “lifeline” area for livestock keepers.

Under WFP’s Productive Asset Creation programme, community members who are physically able to work but face food-insecurity are provided with food assistance in exchange for work to help build/rehabilitate infrastructure that will increase long-term household food security.

Ben, alongside 150 livestock breeders from his greater village area, are now proud owners of a healthy heard, collectively bringing over 1,600 cattle to dip at Mfanyana Dip Tank every other month. By keeping tick borne diseases at bay, the community is able to refocus their efforts on the benefits that come with selling healthy cattle on the market.

“Providing food in exchange for work makes it possible for the poor and hungry to take their first steps out of the hunger trap,” says WFP Country Director Mr. Sory Ouane. He explains that “for livestock breeders, their livestock is often their lifeline to survival during difficult times.”

Projects under the Productive Asset Creation programme include dip-tanks and irrigation schemes that benefit the whole community. In 2014, WFP is creating 150 assets in 10 rural districts whilst more than 17,000 people benefit directly from the food.