Elita Chikwati-Senior Agriculture Reporter
An artificial insemination station has been set up in Chegutu as part of a set of measures to raise pork production almost 40 percent to 25 000 tonnes a year by 2025 through increasing pig production among smallholder farmers.
The station falls under the European Union funded Value Chain Alliance for Livestock Upgrading and Empowerment (VALUE).
The AI programme is part of the VALUE project in the Zimbabwe Agricultural Growth Programme (ZAGP) and is funded to the tune of €7,3 million to implement activities in the goat and pork value chains in 20 districts. Government, the European Union, the private sector and non-governmental organisations established the AI station which constitutes one of the six key strategic interventions of the livestock growth and development plan of the agriculture food systems transformation strategy. Opening the AI station on Bradford Farm in Chegutu recently, Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Deputy Minister Vangelis Haritatos said the station would enable farmers to improve their production, productivity and market competitiveness.
“The AI programme has less risk of spreading animal venereal diseases, reduces in-breeding, improves the genetics and increases livestock numbers in a short time as opposed to natural breeding,” he said.
“It is also expected to address the decline in carcass yield over the years. The livestock sector contributes significantly to household and national food and nutrition security, foreign currency earnings and is a source of livelihood for about 67 percent of the country’s rural households. More than 80 percent of households own livestock, thus supporting livestock production through such initiatives we are witnessing today is a proven path way for improved livelihoods and economic empowerment.”
The thrust of the project was in line with Government’s livestock growth and development plan of the agriculture and food systems transformation strategy in National Development Strategy 1 and dovetailed with sustainable development goal 2 on ending hunger, achieving food security and promoting sustainable agriculture.
Deputy Minister Haritatos thanked the EU for facilitating the importation of 245 high quality pig breeds from South Africa, including boars that are stationed at Bradford Farm as part of genetic improvement programme.
Mashonaland West Minister of State Cde Mary Mliswa-Chikoka said the investment would be put to good use and will benefit the whole pork value chain.
“The initiative like this shows how the policy of engagement and re-engagement is showing dividends,” she said.
“It shows Zimbabwe is open for business. This project contributes towards attainment of Vision 2030.”
EU representative Mr Frank Porte said the establishment of the AI station would strengthen cooperation between the EU and Zimbabwe.
“Every industry should play its part so the pig sector can reap the benefits of the collective efforts,” he said.
“We hope the project will be a success and farming can be done in a holistic way.”
Host farmer, Mr George Mudanga, who started pig production in 2004, said it had been difficult for him and others to access improved genetics.
“The AI project has come to address the major challenge in pig production,” he said.
“It is a game-changer and will benefit many farmers.”