Zimbabwe: Brewing Beer to Keep Livestock Alive

28 February 2020

Communal farmers at Singene Village here, about 210 kilometres northeast of Bulawayo, have found an answer to the shortage of dipping chemicals.

They each contribute a bucket of sorghum, brew beer and sell it to locals as part of an "idili" (a community fund) to raise money to keep their dip tank running.

Most farmers in this drought-prone district have lost livestock due to lack of reliable water, diseases and inadequate pastures.

The farmers have benefited immensely from the Zimbabwe Resilience Building Fund's long-term development initiative called the Matabeleland Enhanced Livelihoods, Agriculture and Nutrition Adaptation (MELANA) project which was started in 2016 and runs through to March 2021.

Under this US$80 million initiative supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Government with funding from the European Union (EU), the Embassy of Sweden and the UK Department for International Development (DFiD), a solar-powered borehole was drilled, piped water installed at a local school and a community garden.

"We are very grateful to the Melana project," said Enock Moyo, leader of the Singene Community Dip Tank Committee.

"We got empowered through improved access to water, a cattle dipping facility, dipping chemicals and piped water.

"Donors have played their part and we have a duty as a community to mobilise funds to keep our dip tank running successfully."

The community dips more than 1 700 cattle from Singene Village and other surrounding villages and each household has to contribute $13 to cover security, maintenance and the purchase of cattle dipping chemicals.

"Most people have no money and they cannot afford to pay $13, but are able to contribute sorghum to help us brew beer which we sell to raise money to buy dipping chemicals," Moyo said.

A litre of the dipping chemical costs about $540 and farmers worry about the fluctuating local rates.

The dip tank requires about three litres a week for each dipping session. In the first month, the committee raised $215, in the second $208 and the third $306 for the "idili" to buy dipping chemicals.

"MELANA has done us proud by providing us with a solar-powered water borehole, piped water to our garden and school," said Nathaniel Ncube, the village head.

"It has changed our lives for the better, but we have to play our part to keep it running. Donors are not going to be with us forever."

Cattle deaths due the effects of drought in Matabeleland were catastrophic in 2019, with 21 400 deaths being recorded due to drought, lack of supplementary feeds and the absence of reliable water sources.

Nkayi is a drought-prone district where the shortage of pasture, water and supplementary feed is widespread.

The installation of a solar-powered borehole, construction of a dip tank and provision of piped water is now helping the Singene community to save their cattle -- a prized possession which acts as a store of wealth.

Apart from this, cattle provide draught power, manure, milk and meat. The Government has been unable to import vaccines due to financial constraints.

And as a result, the Division of Veterinary Field Services has been grappling to supply vaccines nationwide to smallholder farmers.

This has crippled its operations, leading to a resurgence of livestock diseases that have affected animal husbandry.

Zimbabwe owes Botswana close to US$3 million for vaccines it imported to control the outbreak of foot and mouth diseases and other animal diseases. Farmers are now having to fork out their own money to buy livestock vaccines to safeguard their treasured wealth -- cattle.

The situation remains dire in many parts of the country where cattle have not been dipped in many weeks due to the shortage of acaricides, resulting in the resurgence of diseases

Last year alone, farmers in Zimbabwe lost over 30 000 cattle due to drought, poor grazing, lack of reliable water sources and outbreaks of diseases such as anthrax, January disease (Theileriosis) and tick-borne diseases due to lack of dipping chemicals.

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