The Head of Delegation and Ambassador of the European Union Delegation to Zimbabwe, Timo Olkkonen, recently toured the Balu Cattle Business Centre (CBC) in Umguza district in Matabeleland North province. The Balu CBC is managed by the Balu Pecan and Livestock Company and will grow irrigated fodder under a 55-hectare centre pivot.
The CBC is located at Balu Estate, 30km North of Bulawayo City. Balu is owned by the Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (ARDA), a parastatal under the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement. The farm is leased to Balu Pecan and Livestock Company under the government’s Public Private Partnership lease agreement with ARDA.
World Vision is partnering with Welthungerhilfe (WHH), Sustainable Agriculture Technology (SAT), Livestock and Meat Advisory Council (LMAC) and Zimbabwe Agriculture Development Trust (ZADT). The project seeks to create a robust, competitive beef value chain that promotes enhanced trade, employment creation, food security and inclusive green economic growth by 2023 for 25 000 small to medium as well as commercial cattle producers. It involves private sector partnerships through a cattle business centre (CBC) model, which is a beef value chain services hub for production, extension and marketing activities.
The project will benefit 56,000 beef cattle in Umguza district directly and indirectly. Livestock production is a key livelihood and business opportunity for farmers in the area. Beef production in Umguza district and Matabeleland Provinces is being affected by a number of constraints. Frequent droughts being experienced in the region have resulted in crop failure meaning livestock particularly beef production remains the most viable livelihood option for the farmers.
The Ambassador got an appreciation of the progress made in the CBC’s construction where BEST is working in collaboration with the private sector partner, local stakeholders and surrounding communities.
To date, bush clearing, ripping and land preparation on the 55-hectare plot have been completed and the centre pivot erected. Trenching for the pipeline from the pump to the centre pivot, installation of pumps and construction of the pump house and erection of the power line to the pump house are still in progress.
Addressing the stakeholders gathered at the site, the ambassador noted that ZAGP falls under the EU’s development cooperation where agriculture is one of the priority sectors. The programme is more commercially oriented and the EU has committed USD45 million to resuscitate Zimbabwe’s livestock sector.
“Agriculture has a tremendous potential for boosting economic growth for Zimbabwe and could be an engine for economic growth. ZAGP is looking at the commercialization to boost the value chains under the livestock sector.”
Ambassador Olkkonen also added that ZAGP is introducing innovative methods to make livestock rearing more efficient, sustainable, competitive and more commercially oriented which would then generate economic growth for country.
“What I have seen here is very impressive. I hope that this CBC will generate economic prosperity for the Umguza area”, said the Ambassador in conclusion.
Ndodana Khumalo, one of the farmers in the area spoke about how the project is set to address some of the challenges they encounter in their livestock rearing activities.
“This project has come at an opportune time as the 2019 – 20 agricultural season has been very tough for us. The challenges we encounter include limited access to good quality feed including grazing, shortage of water for livestock limited access to inputs, low quality breeds and frequent outbreak of diseases.”
Khumalo noted that farmers in the area have been fully participating in the establishment of the CBC and there is a high level of eagerness to kick-off the project activities.
Speaking at the event, Mark Benzon, the BEST Project Coordinator, stated that the Balu CBC is an intervention to address limited access to good quality feed for beef cattle, which has resulted in lower quality slaughter stock, which in turn has resulted in low gross margins.
“The Balu CBC aims to ensure that beef farmers access high quality fodder, fodder seed and training on production, conservation and utilization of fodder the CBC will be used as farmer’s learning centre from which they will adopt and replicate the good animal husbandry practices learned on their own farms”, he said.
The CBC will also run fee-for-service backgrounding grazing services, fodder demonstrations and facilitate farmer-to-farmer extension services. The aim is for the cattle producers to access these services at any time from a central point.