Improving livelihoods through control of animal diseases in Cyclone Idai affected areas in Zimbabwe
The supply of acaricides has helped to promote the practice of regular dipping amongst the affected communities
Vaccinations and regular dipping sessions have resulted in healthier animals that produce more meat and milk and fetch higher market prices
Many smallholder farmers and marginalized populations in Zimbabwe depend on cattle for their livelihoods. However, a significant number of cattle belonging to these farmers die due to diseases.
Between 2014 and 2020, Zimbabwe lost about 15 328 cattle due to tick-borne diseases resulting in huge economic losses in cattle assets and farm savings in the country.
To reduce livestock deaths, improve farmer livelihoods, promote better livestock production, better nutrition and better life, FAO under the World Bank funded Zimbabwe Idai Recovery Project (ZIRP) supported vaccination campaigns for cattle against Lumpy skin, black leg, anthrax, botulism, and new castle vaccination of poultry across 8 ZIRP districts.
FAO also provided acaricides to 546 community managed diptanks in Chimanimani, Chipinge, Buhera, Chikomba, Gutu and Bikita districts to minimise cattle deaths from tick borne related deaths including Theileria (January disease).
The supply of acaricides has helped to promote the practice of regular dipping amongst the affected communities. Farmers are conducting weekly dipping sessions during the rainy season and fortnightly dipping during the dry periods.
“This is helping cattle owners in Manicaland, Mashonaland East and Masvingo Provinces to manage one of the biggest obstacles (tick-borne diseases) especially Theileriosis (January disease) facing smallholders trying to increase their meat and milk productivity,” says Brian Nhlema FAO-ZIRP project coordinator.
Working together for improved livelihoods
FAO has worked closely with the Government’s Department for Veterinary Services (DVS) to provide training and technical support to 9000 locally recruited community based vaccinators (CBVs), who in turn have vaccinated approximately 2.1 million birds. Through support and backstopping to Veterinary Extension Workers and Supervisors a total 500,000 cattle were vaccinated against Anthrax, Botulism, Blackleg and &Lumpy Skin Diseases between 2020 and 2021.
The DVS is also training rural farmers led by voluntary Livestock Development Committees (LDCs) on environmental and social management of dip tanks covering safe and secure handling and disposal of dipping chemicals, soil and water conservation, waste management, effluent disposal, constitutional reviews for improving dip tanks governance amongst others. Veterinary staff found that vaccinations and regular dipping has led to a significant drop in tick-borne disease cases and tick borne related deaths by close to 60% in some areas and 100% in others.
“Regular dipping in ZIRP projects districts has resulted in zero cases of tick-borne related deaths in those respective areas in the province,” said Roy Dube the Chief Provincial Animal Health Specialist for Manicaland Province.
Farmers in cyclone Idai affected areas highlighted that the wide-scale vaccinations, deworming campaigns and the regular dipping programme supported by FAO is helping drive up their disposable incomes.
“Vaccinations and regular dipping sessions have resulted in healthier animals that produce more meat and milk and fetch higher market prices. The higher market prices, have allowed women like me to increase spending on household essentials like, clothing, food, health, and my children’s’ education and to invest in Income, savings and lending Groups (ISALs),” says 70 year old Sofia Mucharwa, from Chimombe dip tank, in Mutare District. .
“Cyclone Idai killed a lot of cattle, and those that were left were affected by tick-borne diseases and there was emergence of tick borne diseases. I lost two cattle, to January disease. I did not know what to do, but because of FAO support, I now have the knowledge on how to keep my stock healthy. For the past two years my cattle production has increased, I am able to sale my cattle pay for my children’s school fees, extra lessons, and transport to and from school,” added another farmer and LCD treasurer for Glenview dip tank, Tsanangurai Musavengena (52).
Other benefits reported buy farmers included increased manure to fertilize croplands and improved draft power availability from healthier animals, which can pull the ploughs.
What next after the ZIRP project?
FAO and DVShave taken a two-pronged approach to ensure sustainability of project interventions substantial progress has been made with both approaches.
The first approach focuses on transferring knowledge on the importance of regular dipping and vaccination of livestock in reducing cattle deaths. This has resulted in most farmers understanding the importance of dipping and vaccinating their cattle. Farmers who do not dip their cattle are often heavily fined or prosecuted.
“To promote regular dipping we have enacted a constitution that is stringent; anyone who does not dip their cattle is fined $20.00 as they endanger our livelihoods. For enforcement this regulation is supported and enforced by our local leadership” said the LDC chairperson in one of the dip tanks in Chipinge district.
The second approach harnesses the local financial resources (VSLs, ISALs and SACCOs) and market linkages with agro-dealers to ensure that farmers will be able to purchase vaccines and acaricides on their own when the government is incapacitated.
“At Glenview dip tank each stock owner pays $5.00 annually to boost our revolving fund. We use this money to buy acaricides when the government is incapacitated. On a regular basis, we use this money to pay the water carrier. In the future, we will use this money, as advised by FAO to buy personal protective equipment for our dip attendants,” said Musavengena.
FAO through the ZIRP will be providing two out of the seven member LDCs with PPE material including gloves, gowns, boots, head covers, masks. The stockowners will compliment this by providing PPE material for the other five members.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of FAO Regional Office for Africa.