Development of communal cattle production is a sustainable way to improve the livelihoods of the rural population in Zimbabwe. Communal cattle production in Zimbabwe is extensive and dominated by indigenous cattle which are adaptable to their local environments. In the African setting, cattle functions include, provision of food security and have socio-cultural roles.
Most rural household pride and shine with cattle ownership. It is a desire by every man in the village to own a herd. The socio-cultural attachments to cattle have created a vacuum affecting commercialisation of livestock. These attachments arise from calling cattle by name, over time farmers have nostalgic memories from these names disenabling farmers to part with livestock. The Livelihoods and Food Security Programme (LFSP) seeks to improve small holder farmers’ lives is promoting pen fattening as an option for increasing farmers’ incomes and offsetting similar biases. The programme is being implemented in ten districts of Zimbabwe.
Silobela is an agricultural area in Kwekwe district, in Midlands province. Phakamani group is in Ward 29, 60 km away from Kwekwe town. Four pensioners in Donsa village in Silobela, came together and sat down to plan their lives in 2014. The quartet had many ideas to earn a living outside the employment that had laid them off their livelihood. The four lured a total of 52 members and formed a big group to do any project that would bring in income. Till 2016 nothing had materialised from the large group, which ended up having only six serious members. This small group was introduced to LFSP at a livestock field day. It is on this day that these elderly men’s lives were set to change.
Support and Training offered to farmers
The group registered to be beneficiaries of LFSP and were taken through various life skills trainings which included: nutrition, Bio Fortified foods, farming as a business, animal health and leadership just to name a few. Pen Fattening became the group’s preferred project, however there was a will but no way. The group-built pens that laid idle for a year, the group could not fatten beasts due to the following constraints: i) had no idea of how to conduct fattening ii) had no money to buy feed iii) did not know where to find feed iv) had no idea of the type of feed and the feeding regime and v) there was no water source for the beasts. With encouragement from the Programme the group coined their name and the trainings received strengthened their capacity and opened their eyes to the opportunities that lay ahead of them.
The market development component of the programme introduced pen fattening models with three variations. In no order, one was an individual unit production model where individual farmers would fatten their own cattle. This model had the farmer sourcing their own feed through self or borrowed finances with a view of selling to a known off taker without any contractual relations. The second model was an aggregation model which saw a group of farmers pulling resources together in a communal pen and again funding themselves or through group borrowed finances. Sales were made to a known off taker again with no contractual obligations. The last model was the contract farming model, where farmers aggregated their cattle in a communal pen using feed provided at a cost on credit by meat processing companies in a contractual off-taking relationship.
Given the options and the constrains, the group settled for contract farming model with a meat processing company. The company branded the cattle which were put forward for fattening. At the end of 45 days, the farmers deliver the fattened cattle to MC Meats for slaughter, at a competitive price.
During this induction period, monitoring support was provided by both Programme and the off-taker staff. Generally, in Zimbabwe, marketing of livestock is not orderly and is marred by the absence or ill-functional markets. This leaves farmers with no option but to sale cattle using arbitrary weights with reference to physical assessments. Middlemen have taken advantage of this method of assessment and have over the years benefitted more from the live sales. The model introduced by the Programme has eliminated the middlemen though not completely, but farmers are now aware of the options at hand. Out of the ten cattle, taken to MC Meats, five beasts got into commercial grade and four in economy with only one in manufacturing. Profit margins improved upwards from the physical assessments to cold dressed sales with farmers’ profits ranging from 10% to 50% of what the physical assessments could have paid for.
Mr. D Sibanda
Testimonies from members showed a lot of positivism with some paying school fees for their children and grandchildren. Mr. D Sibanda bought a new bike and an axle for his scotch cart. “I had never been so satisfied with cattle sales as middleman used to rob me. I am planning of introducing my wife into pen fattening, so she is able to raise money to fix her kitchen in the next 2018 season’.
For more details please contact
Communications Officer – LFSP Phase II MD Component
Office Landline: +263 772 125 019
Mobile Phone: +263 772 273 379
8 Ashton Road, Alexander Park