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Cattle Farmers Bemoan Climate Change Induced Losses

Matabeleland South, a region famous for cattle ranching and breeding losses cattle every year due to climate change induced hunger. Image by The Citizen Bulletin

Matabeleland South is known for livestock farming. However, climate change has left many farmers counting immeasurable losses after losing their cattle to hunger due to lack of pastures when there is drought.

BY CALVIN MANIKA | @The_CBNews | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. | FEB 20, 2023

GWANDA (The Citizen Bulletin) — A small-scale livestock farmer in Matobo, Sikhumbuzo Nyoni, says he has lost some of his cattle over the years due to lack of pastures during drought seasons.

Nyoni says changing weather patterns accompanied with unpredictable rains has greatly affected his cattle farming project.

“The grazing pastures won't end up blooming as anticipated. Even the fodder produced won't sustain us through the upcoming rainy season,” says Nyoni.

Weather experts say climate change is to blame for the declining grazing land and fodder in Matabeleland South, a region famous for cattle ranching and breeding.

“Because of how unpredictable the weather is, it is impossible to plan ahead,” adds Nyoni.

The effects of climate change are being felt throughout the world, and developing countries are worst affected because of their limited capacity for adaptation.

The vulnerability of developing nations such as Zimbabwe is exacerbated by their heavy reliance on rain-fed and pasture-fed agriculture.

A small-scale farmer, Busani Nleya, says this leaves them vulnerable to the adverse consequences of a changing climate.

Nleya says he has now shifted to goat farming because the animals adapt more quickly to climate change than the other ruminant species.

“Compared to larger cattle, smaller livestock have a higher chance of surviving climate change-related situations such as increased droughts since they need less grazing land, less water, and are less impacted by the loss of pastures,” Nleya says.

There is consensus that climate change is causing more socioeconomic, health, and environmental harm in developing countries.

The impact is made worse by the fact that the majority of the people in these nations depend significantly on their natural environments for subsistence.

As a result, climate change is worsening poverty in many places in Matabeleland South.

A villager from Umzingwane, Vusimuzi Mpala (41), explains the devastating effects of climate change:

“The inadequate grazing land and reduction in fodder stocks is causing overgrazing as evidenced by animals walking long distances in search of veld and at times straying into neighbouring areas as they battle with drought shocks.”

With less than 450 mm of rainfall per year and cattle rearing as the main source of income, Umzingwane is a district that is susceptible to drought.

The region is rocky and characterized by gully erosion, and some areas of the district have suffered significantly from deforestation, exposing the ground to elements that can cause erosion.

The central government says it is stepping up the development of fodder banks to increase animal nutrition in the drier regions of the country. Image by ILRI

Several farmers in Umzingwane now prefer supplemental feeding to make up for any shortfall caused by inadequate vegetative growth during natural grazing.

“Perhaps we can obtain some area set aside in irrigation for fodder, but typically our dams won't have enough water from the rain,” Mpenduko Siziba, a farmer from Umzingwane, says.

“Regardless of these hurdles we continue to attempt all available methods to mitigate climate change because we need our livestock and it is our money.”

The Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, and Rural Settlement says it is stepping up the development of fodder banks to increase animal nutrition in the southern, drier regions of the country.

Matabeleland South Provincial Agricultural Director (Rural Development Services), Mkhunjulelwa Ndlovu, says the target is to 20 percent of arable land at irrigation projects in Matabeleland South under fodder production to guarantee access to supplementary livestock feed.

“Our goal is to increase fodder output in the province's significant irrigation systems so farmers can feed their animals during the dry season instead of relying on nutrient-poor crop residue,” Ndlovu says.

There are many various kinds of grasses, and each climate zone has a particular variety that is tailored to the conditions there.

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Production of fodder is appropriate for dry places since it uses little water, Ndlovu adds.

“Farmers can irrigate and bale a variety of fodder legumes, including lab, velvet, lusen, and sun hem, for their own use or to sell,” he says.

“To revitalize the fodder, farmers might collect it, top-dress it, and then water it. They won't need to replant since they can keep harvesting it year after year.”

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