Disappearing cattle hit farmers in drought-stricken Zimbabwe

With drought consuming cattle, farmers have no means to plow farms ahead of sowing season

Jeffrey Moyo   | 15.10.2021
Disappearing cattle hit farmers in drought-stricken Zimbabwe FILE PHOTO

MWENEZI, Zimbabwe

With cows and donkeys disappearing in rural Zimbabwe due to incessant drought, farmers have been forced to plow their lands using bare hands ahead of the sowing season.

Over the past two years, the country has lost 30,000 cows, according to the country’s Ministry of Agriculture.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, 47-year-old Tailon Msipa from Zimbabwe’s Mwenezi district, south of the country, said the drought has consumed his 16 cows. With the sowing season around, he is tilling and dressing the land using his bare hands.

He said his cattle were killed by drought over the years, leaving him with nothing but his bare hands to depend on.

“Food is no longer enough for me because I have had to use my hands to prepare the land for planting, which is not easy. My cattle are no more owing to incessant droughts,” said Msipa.

The draught had left no food for the cattle leading to their extinction, leaving no choice for the farmers but to depend on their hands to cultivate the land.

“I had eight donkeys, who are no more. Five of them were killed by drought while three were stolen right from my kraal,” Pegina Mavura, 36, from Gwamatenga area in Mwenezi district told Anadolu Agency.

Many farmers who do not have the energy to use their bare hands have lost hope of plowing their farms.

“Enough rains with no animals to help in plowing means very little to me and my family,” said Mavura, a single mother of three who has for years relied on a donkey-drawn plow to till her fields.

Farmers say it is not easy tilling even a single hectare of land without animals.

“There is no way I can use hands to till a five-hectare piece of land,” said Mavura.

With no cattle available for plowing, several communal farmers like 61-year-old Denis Mahukwe from Mwenezi district who had acquired land after it was seized from white farmers and redistributed among Black farmers said, he has given up sowing crops this year.

“I just wait now well-wishers and donors to help me because I can’t work on my piece of land without animals,” he said.

The Matabeleland South Province, southwest of Zimbabwe, has been the hardest hit, with more than 4,500 cows dying because of thirst in 2019 alone.

In Masvingo Province, the cattle deaths exceeded 4,000 in 2019 while the Midlands Province recorded over 2,040 cattle deaths in the same year, according to government data.

Zimbabwean government claimed that it was trying its best to rescue the communal farmers, who have lost cattle.

“Government is doing all to help communal farmers who have lost their cattle to drought get. The government is planning to distribute cows from its national herd to farmers,” said Denford Rungano, a senior official in Zimbabwe’s Agriculture Ministry.

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