Sydney Kawadza in EZULWINI, Swaziland
Rural farmers in Zimbabwe and the whole of Southern Africa are set to receive a major boost in their livestock production through the expected launch of the beef value chain finance initiative this year.
The initiative, whose pilot project was successfully undertaken in Swaziland, includes a loan scheme for smallholder farmers who want to take up beef fattening for the market.
This came out during the on-going International Conference on Livestock Value Chain and Access to Credit being held in Ezulwini, Swaziland.
The conference is being hosted by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in partnership with the Swaziland Water and Agricultural Development Enterprise (Swade) and the Micro Finance Unit, Swaziland (MFU).
The beef value chain finance initiative would see farmers working as business entities, apply for loans from financial institutions, construct feed lots housing for at least 25 cattle and fatten these using locally available water sources to grow forage on two hectare plots for feeding the animals.
Under the initiative, farmers can earn at least US$15 000 after a circle with the beasts going to the market at 15–18 months of age.
ILRI regional representative for Southern Africa, Professor Sikhalazo Dube said the project is anchored on producing cheap but high quality feed for livestock production.
“We are launching the project in Mozambique soon but other countries like Zimbabwe, Malawi, Botswana and Tanzania are clamouring for such initiatives.
“The programme would create avenues for farmers to open up avenues of engaging financial institutions for credit facilities, access to structured marketing programme and guaranteed markets for farmers and buyers,” he said.
Professor Dube said the project had the capacity to stimulate growth in the livestock production sector through access to credit.
In Swaziland, the farmers are guaranteed a $100 000 fund through a local bank and can borrow up to 200 000 Rand ($15 000).
“Understanding the challenges faced by African farmers such as droughts and the need to make livestock production profitable, this model provides farmers to make money out of their activities,” Professor Dube said.
International Fund for Agricultural Development lead technical specialist Dr Antonio Rota said his organisation was ready to roll out the programme across Southern Africa.
The IFAD is a United Nations agency dedicated to the eradication of poverty in rural areas.
“We are working towards reducing poverty, ensuring food security and creating opportunities for rural farmers, especially women and youths, so the programme is very critical.
“We are also ready to support farmers in the region as it is our mandate to support rural areas in accessing these initiatives.”
Dr Rota called farmers to come up with initiatives promoting the use of locally available resources for feedstock.
“We are desperately looking for such initiatives and we can pay for these,” he said.
Swazi Agriculture Minister Moses Vilakazi, who officially opened the conference, urged farmers to take note of the benefits associated with putting their livestock on the market for financial gains.
He further implored farmers to explore ways of adding value to livestock production.
“One of the most difficult decisions for African farmers is to get rid of their cattle. However, it is discouraged to put aged cattle on the market for they do not attract favourable prices,” he said.
The conference is looking at issues to do with improving the livelihoods of livestock smallholders and other value chain actors through livestock value addition and marketing, which is constrained by the lack of access to finance, working capital, affordable quality inputs, and well-structured value chains.