The drought aid promised by farming minister Joseph Made is too little and too late. That government had to wait until livestock started dying in large numbers to respond is an indication of the ineptitude that runs through the system.
Made said, “We made an appeal for food assistance as well as other programmes. On cattle as well, we will assist using a support programme. We are going to spend about $138/9 million on the livestock programme. On the livestock destocking programme we will assist with 54 million and on wild life support we will assist with 16 million. So it means it is 139 plus 54 plus 15 all related to livestock. This programme will also go into borehole drilling and water support as well.”
As things stand, these are just figures that have just been rattled by the minister. There is nothing on the ground to show that the authorities are there to help anyone. Drought assessments and aid applications are being done secretively. The farmers who are losing livestock to the drought do not even have a voice.
The message from the government is that farmers are on their own. In the past, the government has incentivized farmers to sell off their herds before they lose quality and decline in price. This programme has only now been proposed. The normal situation is that the government should have a drought fund that is replenished during the good years. Sadly, this is not the case. The government is too busy feeding its militias to think about rescuing this key sector.
Made only submitted the government’s request to the United Nations on February 9, 2016. The weather service reported in 2015 that there would be a drought. What the minister was doing between then and now, apart from fighting for survival in Zanu PF factional politics, is a mystery.
In the past, government aid to drought-stricken farmers has been limited to senior members of the politburo and their relatives. So, even if the millions promised for subsidizing farmers selling their livestock were to come today, which is not likely, the ordinary farmer would not benefit.
What government needs to do is to develop irrigation systems and water reservoirs during the good years, for the benefit of everyone. Farmers in drought-prone will then be able to save silage and grow grass during the difficult years.
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