Zimbabwe: Goat-keeping boon for Binga women

Hazel Marimbiza — Bulawayo Office

Climate change hits us all, but the most damaging impacts are seen in rural areas, where most smallholder farmers are extremely vulnerable to the vagaries of the weather due to poverty and poor access to services and institutional resources.

In Binga District, women farmers face a wide range of shocks and stresses that pose an almost constant challenge to agricultural success and household and community resilience.

The district is part of Natural Region V and is characterized by low and erratic annual rainfall of 400 mm to 600 mm, poor soils and high temperatures.

With most of their crops affected by unpredictable weather, Binga women living in Zyakamana village have implemented a goat herding initiative with support from ActionAid Zimbabwe in partnership with the Zimbabwe Resilience Building Fund ( ZRBF) and the Zambezi Valley Alliance (ZVA) to counter the effects of climate change.

ActionAid Zimbabwe’s resilience team leader, Mr Ebenezer Tombo, said the women formed the Ziyabapota goat herding group, which comprises 12 members, eight women and four men, who live in the village by Zyakamana.

“The group is female-led and has seen positive progress towards increased resilience. The group’s journey began in 2017 with the introduction of a Matabele buck to their existing herd, Mr. Tombo said.

The Matabele breed is a large animal adapted to local conditions and bred for meat and milk production. Its introduction into the group’s existing herd has increased the average size, resilience and value of their breeding assets.

“Over the past three years the group has successfully bred and maintained their herd, eventually reaching a significant number of 165 animals in July 2020. At this point the male passed and the group continued to breed using the first-generation offspring,” Tombo said.

Ms. Thandazile Sithole, leader of the Ziyabapota group, said the initiative has significantly improved her livelihood.

“After acquiring 35 descendants from the Matabele goat, I sell the improved breeds at 20 to 25 dollars each whereas before, I sold my goats at 10 to 15 dollars. The value of my heritage has thus increased from 70 to 100 %,” Ms. Sithole said.

Overall, the group managed to raise US$1,650 from the sale of goats from this initial introduction of the Matabele goat.

In a bid to layer the sequential interventions and diversify their income, Ms. Sithole and the group members also purchased a grinder for commercial use.

“The crusher was purchased with our own money from an internal savings and loan scheme initiated by ZRBF and ZVA, with the balance coming from support from ZRBF and ZVA,” Ms Sithole said.

The grinder helps reduce the costs of the goat project through the formulation of local feeds, thereby increasing profit margins.

The group made a profit on 94 buckets of maize for community members, which earned them US$564.

Money from the program was also used to purchase additional goats for breeding and eventual sales of these goats increased by US$625.

This remarkable group from the village of Zyakamana support their families, pay school fees for their children, buy agricultural inputs, buy food for their daily consumption and pay for the construction of small dams, and renovate their homes.

Other profits from their operations were used to build a store and shed for their crusher, as well as for repairs.

Members of the Ziyabapota group have successfully built their adaptive capacities through livestock augmentation and sustainable livelihood strategies that provide them with multiple sources of income and increase their resilience to shocks and hazards in the region.

“As a group in 2021 we plan to commercialize our initiative by looking for markets where we can sell our goats and we also want to change a Matabele goat to a Boer to further improve our breeds,” Ms Sithole said.

While it is commendable that rural women in Binga have found solutions to counter the effects of climate change, researchers say there is still a lot to be done to counter the effects of climate change in rural areas.

In his research titled “Resilience strategies of rural populations in the face of climate change”, Mr. Louis Nyahunda said that there is a need to intensify the dissemination of information on climate change.

“There is a need to increase the level of dissemination of information on climate change and resilience which in many rural communities is still lagging behind and social workers should be at the forefront of this demand.

“Social workers should play a key role in education, outreach and awareness; advocating for policy initiatives that reward climate change mitigation, green technologies and sustainable development,” said Mr. Nyahunda.

He indicated the need for policy development and implementation and urged the government to mainstream climate change into its rural development policies and strengthen national bodies that actively consider adaptation and mitigation. climate change and match policy with budget allocation.

“Efforts should be strengthened to help provinces access existing climate change-related funding mechanisms,” Nyahunda added.

He also pointed out that early warning and response strategies to mitigate the impacts of climate variability need to be strengthened in the country, mainly in rural communities.

In addition, he said that surveillance, research and preparedness strategies need to be further strengthened and that social workers should partner with other stakeholders to ensure the realization of this initiative.

Another researcher, Mr. David Moyo, said that one of the most important ways to help the rural poor adapt to climate change is to fight rural poverty.

“Poverty characterized by the lack of coping mechanisms based on techno-science is still lacking among rural people, which consequently cripples their ability to adapt to climate change,” Moyo said.

Last year, the government, through its Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement, the Department of Climate Change and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), launched the ‘Building Climate Resilience of Vulnerable Agricultural Livelihoods in Southern Zimbabwe Project.’

Innovative US$26.6 million initiative aims to reach 2.3 million vulnerable smallholder farmers, improve food security and build resilience of people whose lives and livelihoods are at risk in the face of risks and climate impacts.

“This project comes at an opportune time when tackling the impacts of climate change requires significant financial and technical support. Most vulnerable and poor communities have limited capacity to adapt to the impacts of climate change, 80% of Zimbabweans dependent on rain-fed agriculture,” said the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement, Dr John Basera.

In this way, more projects like Ziyabapota’s would make a greater difference in the national effort to effectively respond to the impacts of climate change.

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