A FEW weeks ago, subsistence farmers in Korogwe complained bitterly, accusing livestock keepers of allowing their huge herds of cattle to feed on their tender maize and other food crops.
They implored the government to evict the cattle keepers from the locality. The farmers told district officials that the livestock keepers were not bona fide residents in Korogwe District. They claimed that the pastoralists had moved into the area from Manyara Region without following proper procedures.
They were invaders. The district leaders also heard that disputes involving land often erupted culminating in all-out battles with sticks, bows and arrows used to attack people. Injuries were rampant in such unfortunate incidents and occasional deaths could not be ruled out.
The response of district leaders was prompt. Korogwe District Commissioner Mrisho Gambo said that the offending pastoralists "must be evicted from the district." He was bitter that the invasion by the pastoralists had caused mayhem in his district.
If observed in dim light, some people might think that livestock keepers are trouble makers who should be banished from communities because they are enemies of the agriculture sector. In fact, they are indispensable development partners.
Livestock rearing is among the major agricultural sub-sectors in this country. Recent figures show that out of the 4.9 million agricultural households, 36 per cent are keeping cattle; 35 per cent are engaged in both crop and livestock production.
It should also be noted that one per cent of Tanzanians are purely livestock keepers. The contribution of livestock also plays other important roles such as contribution to national food supply (meat and milk) and food security apart from its share in the GPD. Livestock also provide manure and draught animal power. This contributes to sustainable agriculture. It means farmers need bulls to draw their ploughs and manure for their crops.
The farmers also need beef, milk and other products from the pastoralists' cattle. So, there is interdependence between farmers and cattle keepers. It should be noted that Tanzania is endowed with abundant natural resources which include arable land pasture.
The country is home to the third largest herd of cattle in Africa after Ethiopia and Sudan. Recent statistics indicate that out of the total 88.6 million hectares of land resource, 60 million hectares are rangelands that are suitable for livestock grazing.
This pasture land is able to host up to 20 million head of cattle. However, due to tsetse fly infestation and other constraints, only 40 per cent of the rangelands are utilized for grazing the 18.5 million-strong herd of cattle; 13.1 million goats and 3.6 million sheep.
More than 90 per cent of these animals are indigenous types found in the traditional sector. Regions which have large numbers of livestock include Shinyanga, Mwanza, Arusha, Tabora, Singida, Manyara, Mara, and Dodoma.
Regions that have comparatively lower livestock populations include Lindi, Mtwara, Ruvuma and Coast. Like the case in Korogwe District, Lindi, Mtwara, Ruvuma and Coast regions made headlines for refusing to host itinerant livestock keepers. These moved in from Shinyanga, Mwanza, Arusha, Manyara and other regions.
Livestock keepers who resettled in Usangu wetlands (also known as Ihefu) in Mbarali District had a fight on their hands when resident farmers refused to take them aboard.
Of the meat producing animals, cattle are the most important as they produce most of the red meat in this country. They contribute about 53 per cent of the total meat production.
Indigenous cattle dominated by the Tanzanian short horn Zebu and Ankole breeds are the main source of beef in the country. About 80 per cent of the indigenous animals are kept in the agropastoral system, while 14 per cent are in the pastoral system. The remaining 6% constituting beef breeds and their crosses come from commercial ranches and the dairy herd.
When addressing a rally at Loliondo in October 2010, President Jakaya Kikwete, who was on a campaign trail ahead of the National General Elections told livestock keepers, some of whom were also farmers to grow high quality pasture for their cattle. He said that that a new livestock policy called for rearing of better quality hybrid cattle. The policy encourages cattle keepers to grow cattle feeds that would save their animals from starvation when droughts or floods hit.
He also said that livestock research centres would be strengthened and enabled to produce higher-value hybrid bulls that would be distributed to cattle keepers in the quest to produce better cattle that would produce more milk or meat. This may have been a clever campaign trail stunt, but if implemented well, the new livestock policy could improve the livelihoods of farmers and cattle keepers in rural villages where droughts and famine often hit hardest.
The contribution of the livestock industry to national economy is bleak but the presence of cattle in the country is highly significant. Processing of livestock products in Tanzania is also limited. Consumption of meat and milk is more prevalent in urban centres that in villages. Average annual slaughters include 1,500,000 cattle; 2,500,000 goats; and 550,000 sheep and the current national per capita consumption of meat is 11 kg per year which is very low, compared to FAO recommendation of 50 kg.
Trade in livestock and their products is still low. Official exports of live animals to Comoro and Burundi in 2006/ 07 totalled 2,542 cattle and 1,852 goats valued at 1.03bn/- compared to 1,706 head of cattle and 800 goats valued at 675.9m/- in 2005/2006. In Tanzania milk production is mainly from cattle. Of the 18.8 million cattle found in the country about 560,000 are dairy cattle which consist of Friesian, Jersey, Ayrshire breeds and their crosses to the East African Zebu.
The rest are indigenous cattle raised as dual purpose animals that is for milk and meat production. Dairy goats are also gaining popularity as a source of milk particularity to the poor and their milk is normally consumed at household level.