Zimbabwean Farmers Forced to Sell Livestock at Meager Prices as Drought Takes Toll

– Amidst Devastating Drought, Matabeleland North Farmers Face Dire Choices to Secure Food

John Cassim

Harare, Zimbabwe – Amidst the harsh realities of a drought-induced crisis, farmers in Matabeleland North, Zimbabwe, are reluctantly parting with their livestock at rock-bottom prices, signaling the depth of their desperation for sustenance.

Renowned for its arid climate ideal for cattle farming, regions like Matabeleland North and South are grappling with the devastating impacts of El Niño-induced drought. 

In Ndangababi village, situated in Ward 16 of the Hwange district, livestock, particularly cattle, holds immense value, akin to gold in these dry terrains.

As the winter sets in and rainfall becomes a distant hope, the dire situation intensifies. 

Despite fleeting glimpses of greenery spurred by occasional rainfall, the grass alone cannot ensure the survival of the cattle until the next harvest season in November.

In the face of this grim reality, farmers find themselves compelled to sell their cattle for as little as US$50, a fraction of their usual market value. 

Thulani Muleya (31), a father of three, expressed the anguish of parting with his prized bull, lamenting, “Under normal circumstances, a bull like that one would fetch a minimum of US$500. But today, with the looming specter of hunger, I have no choice but to sell.”

Echoing his sentiments, Eugine Dube ruefully recounted selling his livestock for a mere US$190, far below its true worth. 

“When buyers come knocking, they dictate the terms. It’s a painful reality, but the drought leaves us with no alternatives,” Dube remarked solemnly.

The desperation is palpable as villagers, like Ernest Tshuma (42), who have witnessed their fair share of droughts, acknowledge that this year’s crisis is unparalleled in severity. 

“I have never witnessed anything like this. Previous droughts would spare us with some small grains, but not this time,” Tshuma reflected somberly.

In a cruel twist of fate, while villagers struggle to eke out a living from their land, just 20 kilometers away, President Emmerson Mnangagwa was slated to inaugurate a new lithium mine, symbolizing hope for economic resurgence. 

However, for the locals, the grandeur of the event offered little solace amidst their dire circumstances.

Expectations

During the 2023 election campaigns, the ruling party, ZANU PF, had garnered support through promises of food distribution, particularly maize meal. Villagers, including those from Ndangababi, had pinned their hopes on such pledges.

However, as the event unfolded, with government officials parading in luxurious vehicles, the stark absence of any mention of food aid dashed their hopes further.

Nevertheless, amid this despair, the Kamativi Mining Company has emerged as a beacon of hope for the community. With plans for skills transfer initiatives, gardening projects, and assistance to vulnerable groups, the company aims to alleviate the plight of the locals. 

Moreover, their commitment to fencing out livestock and providing water points signifies a holistic approach to addressing the community’s needs.

Chief Dingani Nelukoba, acknowledging the severity of the situation, implored the government to intensify efforts in providing water and food relief, recognizing the critical role these measures play in mitigating the impacts of drought on both livelihoods and livestock.

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