HomeOpinion & AnalysisGovt ill-prepared for the drought

Govt ill-prepared for the drought

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Reports that thousands of cattle have died in Matabeleland South, Masvingo and Midlands due to inadequate pastures and acute water shortages make sad reading. Most water sources in the three provinces have dried up due to the prevailing drought with humans and livestock now scrounging for the few remaining water sources.

According to reports, 5 000 cattle have died in Masvingo, 1 300 in Midlands and 450 in Matabeleland South amid indications that more than one million cattle would face starvation should the rains remain scarce. Villagers were now disposing of their livestock cheaply to avoid losses with cattle now being sold at between $50 and $150 against the normal average price of around $400.

The question which comes to mind is: What is government doing to help farmers protect their only source of livelihood? The loss of livestock is taking a heavy toll on rural people and something needs to be done urgently.

As early as April last year, it had been forecast that the El Nino weather phenomenon would impact this year’s rains, but it appears that the government was ill-prepared for the unfolding drought especially in these three worst-affected provinces.

The government was given adequate drought alerts by weather experts, but, as usual, it failed to put its act together. Farmers rely on the government for advice, information and technical support. The department of livestock and that of veterinary services within the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Mechanisation must make a lot of noise so that government does something to safeguard the national herd from the vagaries of bad weather.

drought

There is need for government to put in place drought mitigation programmes to avoid the massive depletion of the national herd like what happened during the 1992 drought which took Zimbabwe decades backwards in terms of livestock production.

Farmers need feed supplements for their livestock to survive until both pastures and the water situation have improved.

The government must also come up with a holistic plan to deal with future droughts. Both humans and animals in drought-prone areas are struggling for water because government is no longer building new dams, while the few existing ones have largely been neglected and dried up.

Most of the boreholes sunk by donors in rural areas have also collapsed and nothing is being done to rehabilitate them, leaving villagers and their animals with no source of water.

It is, therefore, imperative that the government gets its priorities right and focus on projects which benefit the masses such as the provision of water to people and their livestock.

Instead of building a new $145 million Parliament building in Mt Hampden, the government should engage the Chinese contractors to sink boreholes and construct as many small dams in rural areas. The government can also direct more resources towards people-centred projects by cutting on President Robert Mugabe’s numerous foreign travels which gobbled nearly $33 million in the first nine months of 2015 against a budget of less than $17 million.

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