Zimbabwe: El Niño and drought take toll on Zimbabwe’s cattle (Trust)

| January 25, 2016

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Justin Dlomo watches with a growing sense of dread as his small herd of emaciated cattle scrounge for bits of dry grass.

He says, “I don’t even know what to do anymore.”

Climate experts say drought is becoming more frequent and severe in southern Africa, and that—combined with this year’s El Niño phenomenon—it is taking a heavy toll on rural lives and economies.

Zimbabwe is one of many countries feeling the strain of El Niño, which has reduced rainfall across southern Africa over the last year. The drought is worsening in Zimbabwe. Water holes, crops, and pastures are quickly drying up. This makes life difficult for Mr. Dlomo and many other farmers in his village, about 120 kilometres north of Bulawayo. He is unable to feed his animals, and won’t get a good price for his cattle either.

He says, “We are all selling off our livestock. Better that than watch the cattle die.” A cow that used to sell for $500 US now fetches just $150, or as little as $50 in some places.

Mr. Dlomo says water is so scarce in his area that farmers are forced to drink from the same reservoirs as their cattle.

In the past, he would have simply moved his cattle to a neighbouring region with more rainfall. But this time, the drought is too widespread.

He says, “We cannot move our cattle anymore. There is no grass everywhere.”

Livestock experts say parched pastures are responsible for the deaths of thousands of cattle across the country. Last year, the agriculture ministry estimated the national herd at 5.3 million animals, down from more than 6 million in 2014. And weather experts are warning livestock farmers not to expect any rain in the coming month.

The World Food Programme said last month that millions of Zimbabweans will require food assistance this year.

Last month, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization promised to provide subsidized livestock feed to small-scale farmers in four districts of hard-hit Matebeleland South province, as hundreds of cattle succumbed to the combination of El Niño and drought.

But Mr. Dlomo is not hopeful, and says there is no help in sight for his dying livestock. He adds, “We have not seen anyone here coming to offer solutions to our plight. It’s like a punishment from God.”

To read the full article on which this story is based, Zimbabwe: El Niño and Drought Take a Toll On Zimbabwe’s Cattle, go to: http://allafrica.com/stories/201601120651.html