By Brian Gondwe
Mambale Village in Ward 9 of Mangwe District, Plumtree under chief Bango is reeling from a protracted drought.
The dry spell has seen quite a number of villagers losing their herds due to lack of pasture and water.
The local Agriculture Resource Extension officer Mr Tinashe Mutezo revealed to Community Podium that he has to date, recorded more than 40 deaths of cattle due to the catastrophic climate this year.
His sentiments were buttressed by Mr. France Mlotshwa, a villager who said he lost four cattle from his herd due to the devastating drought.
Mlotshwa further predicted more woes if the drought persists.
“If the rains do not show up soon, I foresee a greater disaster and a total wipe out of my herd”, he said in an ominous tone
One man who identified himself as a kraal head in the village, a Mr Ngwenya said the prevailing climatic condition is giving elderly villagers like himself sleepless nights as they are heavily dependent on their cattle as investment.
“We rely on our cattle and this drought is negatively affecting our very livelihoods. To make matters worse the business community is charging R350 for a 50 kg bag of pen feeding which can only be afforded by the financially favoured or those with relatives , spouses or children in South Africa” he said.
The bursting of a dam wall in the village ten years ago compounded the challenge posed by the drought in the area. Subsequently, it meant animals no longer had proximate access to water and had to be moved farther away to access the precious liquid.
On a brighter note, a few villagers with financial clout have resorted to drilling boreholes in their back yards. However, for most of the villagers, boreholes remain a pipe dream. They have to make do with being nomadic pastoralists. Such villagers have to take their cattle to Shashe river bank (which divides Zimbabwe and Botswana ), while creating makeshift homes for their herd boys.
Unfortunately, according to the villagers, the BaTswana either shoot to kill on sight of any cattle that stray to their territory or they simply possess the cattle.
Moreover, there are fears that the extensive movement of cattle could lead to them contracting diseases.
“The back and forth movement poses health risks to our livestock,” lamented Ngwenya.
In a bid to ameliorate the crisis, the villagers have taken to growing dry, drought-resistant crops.
“Some villagers have started dry planting, praying and hoping for a better day when rains come. Our region is dry so we plant drought resistant crops like sorghum and millet to sustain our families”, said Ngwenya as he confirmed that they are yet to receive rains this season.
Ngwenya however commended government efforts to assist the community by providing much needed maize meal to feed families. He also extended gratitude to Organisation of Rural Associations for Progress(ORAP) , a non governmental organisation which donates food hampers to pregnant women and those with children who are two years and below