Many smallholder farmers and marginalized communities in Zimbabwe depend on cattle for their livelihoods. However, a large number of cattle owned by these farmers die due to diseases.
Between 2014 and 2020, Zimbabwe lost an estimated 15,328 head of cattle to tick-borne diseases, resulting in huge economic losses to cattle and farm savings in the country.
To reduce livestock deaths, improve farmers’ livelihoods, promote improved livestock production, better nutrition and better lives, FAO, through the World Bank-funded Zimbabwe Idai Recovery Project (ZIRP), supported campaigns to vaccinate cattle against tumor, blackleg , anthrax, botulism and new vaccination of poultry in 8 districts of ZIRP.
FAO also provided acaricides to 546 community-run diptanks in Chimanimani, Chipinge, Buhera, Chikomba, Gutu and Bikita districts to minimize cattle mortality from tick-borne diseases, including Teileria (January disease).
The supply of acaricides helped to increase the practice of regular dipping among the affected communities. Farmers conduct weekly dipping sessions during the rainy season and fortnightly during dry periods.
“This is helping cattle owners in Manicaland, Mashonaland East and Masvingo provinces to deal with one of the biggest obstacles (tick-borne diseases). Theileriosis (January disease) faced by smallholders trying to increase their meat and milk yields,” says Brian Nlema, FAO-ZIRP project coordinator.
Working together to improve livelihoods
FAO works closely with the government’s Department of Veterinary Services (DVS) to provide training and technical support to 9,000 community-based vaccinators (CBVs), who in turn have vaccinated around 2.1 million birds. A total of 500,000 cattle were vaccinated against anthrax, botulism, blackleg and skin cancer between 2020 and 2021, thanks to the support and encouragement of veterinary services and managers.
DVS also trains rural farmers under Voluntary Livestock Development Committees (LDCs) on environmental and social management of dipping tanks covering safe and sound handling and disposal of dipping chemicals, soil and water conservation, waste management, sewage disposal, constitutional reviews to improve the immersion of control tanks among others. Veterinary staff found that vaccination and regular dipping resulted in significant reductions in tick-borne diseases and tick-related deaths: nearly 60% in some areas and 100% in others.
“Regular dipping in ZIRP project areas has resulted in zero tick deaths in these areas of the province,” said Roy Dube, Chief Animal Health Officer for Manicaland Province.
Farmers in areas affected by Cyclone Idai stressed that the large-scale vaccination, deworming campaigns and regular dipping program supported by FAO are helping to increase their disposable incomes.
“Vaccination and regular dipping sessions have resulted in healthier animals that produce more meat and milk and fetch higher market prices. Higher market prices have allowed women like me to increase spending on essentials such as clothing, food, healthcare and education for my children, and to invest in Income Savings and Lending (ISAL) groups,” says 70 -year-old Sofia Mucharva. , from Chimombe Aquarium, in Mutare District. .
“Cyclone Idai destroyed a lot of cattle and those that remained were affected by tick-borne diseases and developed tick-borne diseases. I lost two cattle, from the January disease. I didn’t know what to do, but thanks to FAO’s support, I now know how to keep my livestock healthy. In the last two years, my cattle have increased, I can sell my cattle, pay for my children’s school fees, extra lessons and transport to and from school,” added another farmer and treasurer of the Glenview Aquarium RC, Tsanangurai Musavengena ( 52).
Other benefits reported by farmers included increased manure to fertilize cropland and improved availability of draft power from healthier animals that can pull the ploughs.
What’s next after the ZIRP project?
FAO and DVShave used a two-pronged approach to ensure sustainability of project interventions. Significant progress has been made in both approaches.
The first approach is aimed at imparting knowledge about the importance of regular dipping and vaccination of livestock to reduce cattle mortality. This has resulted in most farmers realizing the importance of dipping and vaccinating their cattle. Farmers who do not dip their cattle are often subject to heavy fines or prosecution.
“To promote regular immersion, we have adopted a constitution that is strict; anyone who does not dip their cattle is fined $20.00 as they threaten our livelihood. To ensure compliance, this rule is supported and enforced by our local leadership,” said the LDC chairman at one of the dip tanks in Chippinge district.
The second approach uses local financial resources (VSL, ISAL and SACCO) and market linkages with agricultural dealers to ensure that farmers can purchase vaccines and acaricides themselves if the government is unable to act.
“At Glenview dip tank, each stockholder pays $5.00 annually to increase our working capital. We use this money to buy acaricides when the government is incapacitated. We regularly pay the water carrier with this money. In the future, we will use this money, as recommended by FAO, to purchase personal protective equipment for our health workers,” Musavengena said.
FAO, through ZIRP, will provide two of the seven LDCs with personal protective equipment, including gloves, gowns, boots, headgear, masks. The shareholders will praise this by providing personal protective equipment for the remaining five members.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of the FAO Regional Office for Africa.
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