Monday, May 21, 2012

Zimbabwe's cattle breeders face tough choices as pasture vanishes

Madalitso Mwando in AlertNet: Lorraine Mabuza stands outside her cattle pen. She wears a pensive look, and the source of her troubles is not hard to guess. “I do not know where these beasts are going to get grass today,” says the widowed 53-year-old. “There are no pastures around here anymore. I have to move these cattle to another place where we can get some fodder.”

Mabuza’s cattle pen holds 17 cows. She had 20 in her herd, but has sold three since the beginning of this year. While her livestock would normally represent enviable wealth in the rural economy of Filabusi, a village about 300 km (188 miles) southeast of Bulawayo, the animals have become something of a headache to her.

Cattle and other livestock formerly grazed freely on the plains here, feeding on the plentiful grass, but poor rainfall, linked by experts to climate change, has caused the vegetation to disappear.

Low-rainfall areas of southern Zimbabwe have long been considered suitable for cattle ranching. Yet experts and the Ministry of Agriculture are alarmed by the loss of fodder as rainfall in the region reduces, and are also worried about the impact on the region’s livestock farmers...

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