Zimbabwe Launches Village Auctions to Shield Farmers from Drought and Predatory Buyers

·  Zimbabwe faces its worst drought in 40 years, threatening nearly 1.5 million cattle and pushing desperate farmers to sell to unscrupulous buyers for rock-bottom prices.

·  The Ministry of Agriculture unveils Village Business Units (VBUs) – ward-level auction centres offering fair prices, essential services, and a path to survival for Zimbabwe’s farmers.

John Cassim

Harare, Zimbabwe – In a bid to shield desperate farmers from unscrupulous buyers during the country’s worst drought in 40 years, the Ministry of Agriculture has announced the establishment of village livestock auctions across Zimbabwe.

Farmers are resorting to panic sales and as such government has declared that no livestock sales will be conducted at household level but through the ward-based business unit cattle sale pens.

Deputy Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Fisheries and Rural Development, Vangelis Haritatos, unveiled the “Village Business Centre” concept on Monday in Harare. 

The initiative comes in response to the devastating El Nino-induced drought that has placed nearly 1.5 million cattle at risk, particularly in the provinces of Mashonaland, Matabeleland South, Matabeleland North, Midlands, and parts of Manicaland.

“The results of the recent crop and livestock assessment are concerning,” Hon. Haritatos stated. “While some areas have adequate water for up to nine months, others face critical shortages as early as three months.”

Zimbabwe is estimated to have about 2.88 million cattle of which about half are said to be at risk.

The livestock drought mitigation strategies will not be targeting only beef but dairy cattle, pigs, goats, sheep and poultry. 

Village Business Units: A Multi-Faceted Approach

The Ministry is implementing a multifaceted strategy through the creation of ward-level Village Business Units (VBUs). 

These centres aim to eliminate predatory pricing, by facilitating auctions, that will ensure farmers receive fair market value for their livestock, eliminating the exploitation by middlemen who have been buying cattle for a pittance.

VBUs will bring together auctioneers, abattoir operators, and other potential buyers, offering farmers a wider range of options.

The units are expected to go beyond auctions, offering services like fodder production, feed formulation, establishment of watering points, and livestock holding facilities.

Solar Power to Fuel Sustainability

The government plans to equip VBUs with multi-purpose solar-powered boreholes, ensuring a sustainable source of water and energy for these vital centres.

A Beacon of Hope After Desperation

This initiative follows a period of immense hardship for Zimbabwean farmers, particularly those in Matabeleland North. 

As chronicled in previous reports, by ConserveZim, farmers have been forced to sell their cattle for as little as US$50, a fraction of their true value, due to the drought’s relentless grip.

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 spectre 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 announcement of VBUs offers a glimmer of hope for these struggling communities. By ensuring fair prices and additional support services, the government aims to empower farmers, mitigate livestock losses, and navigate the current crisis.

The initiative will see auctioneers and those that are in the game of selling cattle and other livestock coming to the ward where farmers will offer whatever livestock species that they want to sell. Auction dates will be announced ahead of time to allow sanity to prevail.

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