Zimbabwe: Small-scale farmers battle tick-borne diseases (by Vladimir Mzaca, for Farm Radio Weekly)

| February 3, 2014

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Mr. Dube almost lost hope. One by one, his animals were dying, and he was afraid he could no longer make a living raising cattle. He nearly sold his herd and moved to the city to find work.

Mr. Dube is a small-scale farmer from the Manama area of Gwanda, in Matabeleland South, about 200 kilometres south of Bulawayo. The region experienced heavy rains in January 2012. And those rains led to an increase in tick populations.

Mr. Dube lost many of his cattle to tick-borne diseases. He says, “Things went from bad to worse. I lost 15 cows [from] my herd of 25.” The deaths and the loss in earnings made him consider his options.

Mr. Dube decided to sell five of the remaining ten cows. He explains: “I sold half of what remained because I was thinking of relocating to the city. But the local veterinary officer advised me to remain with the five … because, for small-scale farmers, it is easier to manage a smaller herd.”

The following year, three of his cows had calves, and Mr. Dube’s prospects brightened. He also began to treat his cattle against ticks and tsetse flies, using a process called dipping. He says, “I saw blue ticks feeding on my livestock. This kind of tick causes tick-borne disease. ”

Lovemore Dube is a veterinary officer in Matabeleland South. He says cattle in the region frequently die from tick-borne diseases. The veterinarian says the best way to avoid deaths is regular dipping. Dipping involves immersing livestock in a liquid solution that contains a chemical designed to kill ticks or other pests.

Simple Nare also raises cattle in the Manama area, and his livestock also suffer from tick-borne diseases. But Mr. Nare cannot afford dipping chemicals. He says, “There is a shortage of subsidized dipping chemicals nationwide. The only option is to import from South Africa … but the [chemicals] are also expensive.”

When Mavis Sibanda’s daughter married, Mrs. Sibanda received eight cows as the bride price. The widow planned to fatten and sell the animals, but five quickly succumbed to tick-borne diseases.

Mrs. Sibanda explains, “I did not have much knowledge about livestock … All I thought was to feed and sell; I overlooked the disease aspect. When I [realized] and sought help, it was already too late.”

Mrs. Sibanda adds, “I was going to sell to a butchery in less than a week, so I thought buying medicine would be a waste of money.”

Mrs. Sibanda’s neighbour, Zamcolo Nxumalo, came to her rescue. Mr. Nxumalo is not a cattle owner but a science teacher. He recalls: “When her cattle died, I advised her to immediately seek professional assistance for the remaining ones, because these diseases are obviously contagious, and that is why the cows died simultaneously.”

After getting technical advice, Mrs. Sibanda is now hopeful that her remaining cows will survive. She plans to breed them. She says, “I am no longer selling … I just monitor them like everyone else does with the hope they will give birth and replace those that I lost.”

For further reading:

Namibia cattle farmers boost income by improving animal health (FRW #224, November 2012) http://weekly.farmradio.org/2012/11/12/namibia-cattle-farmers-boost-income-by-improving-animal-health-by-johanna-absalom-for-farm-radio-weekly-in-namibia/

Farm Radio Resource Pack #88, Livestock Health (July 2009), may also be of interest: http://www.farmradio.org/radio-resource-packs/package-88/