LIVESTOCK farmers in Matabeleland region have called on government to extend the command agriculture scheme to cattle production.
To ensure that the country is self-sufficient for its food requirements government, in July last year, launched command agriculture where 400 thousand hectares were set aside for maize production countrywide.
Government supported farmers with inputs such as seed, fertilizer and fuel.
In the same vein, Matebaleland Council Unions, a grouping of farmer unions, called on government to provide their sector with support for the revival of cattle farming.
“We wish to draw a parallel with the successful command agriculture programme for crops where the government provided inputs assistance to farmers. Matabeleland is in ecological region 5, which is dry and not suitable for crop farming as compared to other regions.
“Our region strives on cattle production. We call on the government to consider extending the command agriculture scheme to cattle production,” a statement from the the unions said.
The unions called on government to provide them with input support.
“The main thrust should be providing replacement heifers, breeding bulls, technical advice, and loans with appropriate terms as cattle farming is a long term project, unlike cropping. Our unions are ready to mobilise their members for the successful implementation of the cattle aspect of the command agriculture programme.
“We urge the government to come up with development programmes that are specific to each ecological region, as opposed to the one-size-fits-all approach which never works for other regions,” the unions said.
Meanwhile, the unions have castigated the deputy Minister of agriculture Paddy Zhanda, for enforcing the decentralization of the cattle auction system in the region.
The unions felt the move was meant to disfranchise both farmers and cattle buyers.
“It is clear to us that the measures being enforced currently go beyond that and are harming the farmer. It is regrettable that efforts to convince the honourable deputy minister otherwise have been met with an unwarranted Confrontational and humiliating approach by him.
“In fact, we believe the deputy minister adopts a ‘fighting mood’ whenever he comes down to Matabeleland, for reasons that are neither clear nor rational in our view,” the unions charged.
The deputy minister and cattle producers in Matebeleland have been at loggerheads following the decentralization of the cattle auction system. Under the previous system, the cattle auctions were done at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair cattle pens.