The El Nino-induced dry period experienced across Zimbabwe is claiming the lives of livestock especially cattle, whose conditions have deteriorated due to water shortages in the Matebeleland South province.
Matobo district is the most affected area where several villagers claim most of their cattle have died due to drought while others have been trapped in mud at water points, especially in dams.
According to a report released during the weekend by Habaukkuk Trust, the rural communities in Matebeleland South are in distress after water sources and grazing areas have depleted resulting in the death of livestock.
“The prevailing harsh climatic conditions have precipitated an erratic start to the 2023/24 rainy season currently being experienced in most parts of the country.
“Zimbabwe is currently at the peak of the ongoing strong El Nino event which is driving below-average rainfall across much of southern Africa.
“According to villagers from Gohole in Matobo district, the situation is dire as dozens of cattle succumb to the crisis in an attempt to drink water from muddy ponds that are inside the local dam.”
Feluna Ncube, proportional representation councillor for Gohole in Matobo ward 20, told the Habakkuk Trust of the severity of the crisis with no end in sight as the dry conditions are worsening by the day.
“We are receiving daily reports of cattle dying from being trapped in muddy pools of Gohole Dam. As if it’s not enough, some of our cattle are succumbing to starvation as grazing areas have been depleted and we are losing hope by the day,” Ncube said.
The report also stated that villagers from Sigangatsha in Matobo, ward 6, have not been spared from the devastating effects of the prevailing dry weather conditions as they are losing cattle on an hourly basis.
“We are involuntarily slaughtering our cattle everyday, especially the ones in calf. Once a cow in calf drops to the ground, chances of raising it to stand on its feet again are slim and we are left with no option but to slaughter,” Mary Mhlanga, a member of the Habakkuk Trust Community Advocacy Action Team from Matobo ward 6 said.
The report indicated that as a coping strategy, villagers from Madlambudzi in Bulilima ward 11 have since resorted to abstraction to provide their cattle water.
“The livestock situation is critical and we have resorted to watering our livestock through filling up large dishes with water dug from the basin of the dam,” Silindeni Nleya, who is a member of the Madlambudzi Dam committee, said.
The report further stated that Bulilima district has not been spared from the adverse weather conditions that have since claimed hundreds of cattle while the plight of villagers has also been worsened by wildlife raids.
“Hyena invasions are on the rise, compounding livestock losses as the animals are too weak to escape from attacks by these predators.
“The climate change-induced weather phenomena has colluded with worsening economic conditions coupled with a weak climate governance framework much to the detriment of local communities.
“The limited adaptation measures to the climate crisis is threatening to severely affect not only the household economic base but also has ripple effects on the local and national economies.”
Matebeleland South holds a very significant portion of the country’s national herd, hence the need for urgent attention to the crisis, the report added.