GOVERNMENT and its development partners have upgraded 26 animal health management centres in eight provinces across the country under a US$4 million project aimed at enhancing community livelihoods through increased production and contribution to the national economy.
A total of 73 000 livestock farmers are already benefitting from the programme, which is also set to reduce livestock mortality and support the growth of the national herd in line with Livestock Growth Plan.
The upgraded centres will ensure that livestock medicines and vaccines are readily available while playing a crucial role in disseminating necessary information to farmers, which will enable them to protect their animals.
The European Union availed the funding under the Zimbabwe Agricultural Growth Programme (ZAGP) through the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in partnership with the Department of Veterinary Services and the Department of Environmental Health Services.
Yesterday the Government officially handed over the upgraded Manama Animal Health Management Centre, which coincided with the launch of the Animal Pests and Disease Surveillance Plan.
The intervention buttresses the implementation of the Transforming Zimbabwe’s Animal Health and Food Safety Systems for Future (SAFE) project and comes at a time when the country has declared war against the January Disease, which has killed over 500 000 cattle in the past five years.
Improved livestock health management as well as the adoption of climate-change mitigation strategies are expected to bolster livestock production in Zimbabwe, especially in the southern region where animal husbandry is the mainstay economic activity.
Guest of honour at the handover of the upgraded facility in Manama, Deputy Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water, and Rural Development, Cde Davis Marapira, said the upgraded facilities will significantly contribute towards growth of the national herd.
“The country has over 5,4 million beef herd. Other countries in the region are talking about 15 to 17 million cattle. We have 4,8 million goats and a few sheep. If we add these, we get about US$2 billion,” he said. “An economy like ours should be boasting about US$20 to US$30 billion livestock economy. What is needed is production and reproduction of our animals.
“We are glad to see that the SAFE project has been contributing to enhancing animal production and productivity through interventions such as support to formulation of strategies for livestock capacitation and ISO accreditation of the Government and training of extension staff on SOPs among other things.”
The Deputy Minister said the involvement of the private sector players at the Animal Health Management Centres is also applauded as it speaks to the strengthening of private public partnerships under NDS1 for financing of the livestock sector.
Such investments in agriculture remain crucial as the sector in Zimbabwe provides employment to between 60 and 70 percent of population, he added.
This also accounts for the same percentage of raw materials used in industries as the agriculture sector also accounts for the biggest chunk of foreign currency earnings.
“Besides provision of a stable nutrition, agriculture is the main contributor of the country’s GDP especially here in Matabeleland South where almost each villager has an animal,” said Cde Marapira.
“The biggest component, which we should deal with in order to record growth is the nutritional value of our animals.
“If our animals are not in good health, especially the females and bulls, then we won’t have good production.”
Cde Marapira said Government was seized with the drive to transform the agricultural sector to improve its contribution to the achievement of sustainable goals as espoused under NDS1 and Vision 2030.
EU representative, Ambassador Jobst von Kirchmann, said the livestock value chain has been severely affected by diseases such as Foot and Mouth hence more resources are being channelled towards reviving the livestock value chain and exports.
“As the EU, we are committed towards working on the livestock value chain so that it becomes efficient once again,” he said.
FAO sub-regional coordinator for Southern Africa and representative for Zimbabwe, Dr Patrice Talla, said improvement in animal health and productivity can be achieved through disease and parasite control, breeding, nutrition, rangeland management and better methods for marketing of animals and animal products.
“The SAFE project was designed to address challenges mentioned above with the overall objective of transforming Zimbabwe’s animal health and food safety systems for improved livestock productivity, food safety and market access,” he said.
“This ties in well with FAO’s strategic framework 2022-31 that focuses on the transformation of the agri food system through achieving four pillars which are better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life, leaving no one behind.”
Dr Talla said the SAFE project supported the upgrade of the anchor-animal health centres with installation of solar power units, security fencing, anti-burglar bar screens, refrigerators, computers, drug cabinets, security safes and Wi-Fi routers.
The Livestock Growth Plan is part of the Agriculture and Food Systems Transformation Strategy that is expected to turn agriculture into a US$8,2 billion industry by 2025 and contribute towards the achievement of Vision 2030.
According to the plan, beef production is expected to grow from 50 000 tonnes to 90 000 tonnes per year, which is premised on improved animal nutrition and development of pastures.