Villagers in Bulilima District are struggling to save their livestock from a devastating drought that has so far left nearly 5, 000 cattle dead across the drought-prone Matabeleland South Province.
Owing to poor rains received in the past cropping season, pastures in most parts of Matabeleland South have diminished while water sources such as dams have also dried-up, making it hard if not almost impossible for the cattle to survive.
A visit by CITE news crew to Bulilima on Wednesday revealed that unless it rains soon, more cattle would be lost to the crippling drought.
The cattle situation is dire in areas such as Gambo, Ntoli, Khame, Manguba, Ndolwane, Mbimba, Jutshume, Bambadzi and many others.
Some villagers told CITE said they were watching their cattle die, with little they could do to save them, while others literally hunt for the hay and water to administer to their animals whose condition has further deteriorated.
“The situation is very bad as you can see,” Bukelani Ndlovu, of Gambo, told CITE.
“I wake up early everyday to go and gather some grass and a variety of tree branches as a way of trying to save cattle from this life-threatening drought.”
Ndlovu, who is a widow, having just lost her husband, literally administers hay and water to two of her cattle that have since been grounded as a result of the drought.
“We dig wells for the animals at Manzamnyama River before pouring it into containers for them to drink,” explained Ndlovu.
“This cow you see here fell on a hilltop whilst looking for something to eat. It has been grounded for a week and some days now. We wish the government could at least help us with stock feed so that our cattle do not collapse because of the drought.”
Ndlovu and her family have a mammoth task of administering feed and water to the grounded animals three times a day.
The poor widow said while the stock feed going for ZW$250 or ZAR 250 could be found, it still remained very expensive for many poor villagers like her.
She said some villagers were resorting to selling goats which are in a better condition in order to raise money for the stock feed.
Majahana Nkomo, another villager from Gambo, bemoaned the livestock situation in Bulilima.
“The cattle are dying in their numbers because the pastures have since been wiped out as well as leaves that fall from trees,” he said.
“I cannot give you the exact number of cattle that have succumbed to this drought but all I can say is that almost every day cattle die and that is no longer news to us; so many cattle have died.
Nkomo said in order to save the cattle, some villagers, who can afford, have since taken their livestock for upkeep in the farms around Fig tree.
“At first they were not paying but later on we were told they have to pay with cattle,” explained Nkomo, who added that he did not manage to take his livestock there.
“At the end of the year one is supposed to pay one calf for the upkeep of their cattle, which I think is what deters most of us,” elaborated Nkomo.
He added villagers were no longer interested in buying beef from collapsed animals as it was now all over the district.
“Cattle are now collapsing in Bambadzi,” said Martha Ncube, a village head in the area.
“Some people have been trying to raise those that fall as a result of the drought. The cattle are very thin and quite a number of them have succumbed to the drought.”
Naboth Nkomo, of Jutshume said the unavailability of water in the area was to blame for the large number of cattle deaths.
“A number of cattle have succumbed to drought because of the unavailability of water in most cases,” said Nkomo.
“Mobhongane Dam which used to be our main source of water is now in ruins following the bursting of its walls some years back. What this means is that livestock have to now share the limited water sources with human beings. With adequate water, the situation could be much better.”