BULAWAYO, February 1 (The Source)—Agriculture deputy minister Paddy Zhanda has urged farmers to destock after 7,000 cattle died in the south of Zimbabwe in the severest drought to hit the nation since 1992.
Zimbabwe, like most of the region, is facing a severe drought due to the El Nino phenomenon which is seen damaging harvests across southern Africa, leaving 14 million people in need of food aid, according to the United Nations Food Programme.
Zhanda said the cattle situation was dire in the southern provinces.
“On Wednesday I will be in Matabeleland North and South provinces engaging with the farmers to see how best we can handle the situation. I would like also to urge farmers to destock and sell some of their livestock and buy stockfeed to avoid massive losses,” said Zhanda, who is in charge of livestock.
More than 7,000 cattle were reported dead since October last year, with Masvingo province the hardest hit with 5,000.
The livestock department estimates that more than 500, 000 cattle could die during the drought in Matabeleland North with 350, 000 at risk Matabeleland South. Over a million cattle died in the 1991-1992 drought.
The government recently announced that it had set up task teams to set up feed lots for supplementary feeding of cattle around the country. The targeted provinces are Manicaland, Masvingo, Midlands, Matabeleland North and Matabeleland South.
Last year, the agriculture ministry’s livestock department estimated that the national cattle herd stood at 5.3 million animals, down from over 6 million in 2014.