By Tapiwanashe Mulenga and Bongani Ncube
The depletion of pastures due to veld fires has left communal farmers in the Midlands province in a dire situation as cattle die each day from starvation as rivers are polluted by artisanal miners.
Midlands provincial crop and livestock officer, Medlinah Magwenzi pointed out that veld fires devoured grazing land in many parts of the province including Mberengwa, Lower Gweru, Shurugwi, Lalapansi, Gokwe, and Dorset.
“Livestock in the communal areas are now in a dire situation as pastures are running out. Water sources are also now very far which affects the health of the animals. We have recorded many deaths due to shortage of pastures and water and there are also unreported deaths of cattle across the province,” noted Magwenzi.
“The Province is usually hit by starvation due to veld fires and village leaders have to liaise and prepare fire guards to protect grazing land.
Alternatives provide that farmers should dilute molasses and salt in water and sprinkle on the roughage then feed their cattle, but as it is communal farmers can not afford to purchase these supplementary feeds. More than half of the province’s national herd of close to a million cattle is at risk of being wiped out by this year’s drought if nothing is done within the coming few months,” she said.
Farmers and livestock experts say escalating diseases, as well as the devastating effects of the veld fire-induced drought, have combined to put thousands of animals at risk of dying.
“The recent assessment carried out provides that if mitigatory measures are not put in place to avert the situation, we are likely to lose close to 40 percent of the country’s national herd. During this time of the season, most cattle are at risk of contracting diseases induced by ticks, hunger, and bad weather and we recommend village leaders to seek help from Agritex officers in their districts and dip and dose their livestock,” she said.
“The Environmental Management Agency (EMA) has conducted 463 fire inspections in Gweru with 42 tickets being issued for offenses that include failure to put in place fireguards and 2 dockets opened for veld fire-related offenses,” noted EMA in a statement.