GWANDA – Drought is ravaging Gwanda District in Matabeleland South province, with villagers losing their cattle in large numbers due to depletion of pastures caused by poor rains over the past two seasons.
“We have not received rains for the past two years and the situation is now critical,” headman Misheck Ncube of Nsimbi village in Garanyemba told the Daily News last weekend.
“We are now losing more than 60 cattle daily in this district due to loss of pastures and water. For example last year i had more than 25 but I am now left with only eight because of this drought.”
Matabeleland South Province thrives on its cattle herd, but consecutive droughts have drastically slashed the herd, putting a strain on villagers.
Ncube said the government programme to feed their cattle has not helped as it benefited only a few villagers. Last year, government allocated $10 million to the drought-stricken province in a bid to avert livestock deaths.
“Our hope is that this government pours more funds into this stock feed programme because so far it benefited few people, since it was not enough,” headman Ncube said.
Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers’ Union (ZCFU) president, Donald Khumalo, recently called on government to take urgent measures to save livestock in that region.
Khumalo warned that “Zimbabwe could face a repeat of the 1992 situation, when over half of the national herd was wiped out by a devastating drought with Matabeleland regions being the worst affected.”
So far Gwanda, is the hardest hit district by drought in Matabeleland South followed by Beitbridge, Kezi, Mangwe and Bulilima districts, according to Midard Khumalo, Matabeleland South provincial adminstrator.
Most villagers in Gwanda districts are now selling their cattle for as little as $150 while others exchange their beasts for solar panels and motor cycles for fear of suffering loss.
Zimbabwe is one of the six southern African countries hit by drought this year, leaving over 14 million people in the affected countries in need of urgent food aid.