By Faith Chimutsa
In a bid to grow the national herd, increase production and productivity Zimbabwe Association of Dairy Farmers(ZADF) and the Government last Tuesday launched the National Dairy Breeding Strategy at Bela Vista Farm in Goromonzi District.
The event follow a tapped government program which was launched by the Zimbabwe President, Emmerson Mnangagwa in 2020, of the Agriculture and Food Systems Transformation Strategy.
The National Dairy Breeding Strategic Plan which seeks to provide strategic direction for national dairy herd size growth by 2025 through enhanced multilateral partnerships is anchored on Agriculture Recovery Plan, the Livestock Development Plan, the Accelerated Irrigation Rehabilitation and Development Plan and the Agricultural Information Management Systems Plan.
Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries,Water and Rural Development Hon Dr Anxious Masuka in a speech read on his behalf by Chief Director of Agritex Professor Obert Jiri at the event at Cyprian Kunaka’s Bella Vista Farm, said agriculture transformation remains the top priority for the government of Zimbabwe because of it’s huge potential contribution to livelihood transformation and economic growth.
“Zimbabwe is an agro-based nation and among several sectors,the dairy sector plays a very critical role in the realization of national development targets set in the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1).
In 2021 the Agricultural sector grew by 36.4% and sat at a gross sector value of about US$8 billion against our 2025 target of US$8.2 billion. This shows that meeting our targets much earlier is achievable if the spirit of growth is retained amongst all of us, ” said Jiri.
The livestock sub-sector contributes significantly to household and national food and nutrition security, foreign currency earnings and is a source of livelihood for about 67% of the country’s rural households.For this reason, the Government has been very keen on the sector and has thus continued to allocate resources and other forms of support to foster it’s growth. Thus supporting livestock production is a proven way for improved livelihoods and economic empowerment to transform agriculture to achieve it’s contribution to the national GDP,” added Jiri.
At the peak production in the early 90s, Zimbabwe had a 42 000 milking herd producing 260 million litres of milk and it then went down to an all-time low of 36 million litres in 2009 with a total dairy herd of 22, 000. However, since then Zimbabwe has been on a recovery path and as of 2021, has produced 80 million litres.
Dairy production and productivity are directly linked to herd size, quality and nutrition. The major challenges affecting growth of the national herd include but not limited to feed which now accounts for over 70-80% of the cost of production, limited use of Artificial Insemination(AI) and sexed semen, loss of dairy cow genetics from natural breeding, limited access to affordable finance for procurement of heifers, limited supply of heifers by breeders in Zimbabwe and diseases.
To address these challenges, all major stakeholders in dairy sub-sector including farmers, input suppliers, development partners and relevant Government departments were consulted to develop Dairy Breeding Strategic Plan. It draws mandate from national priorities and goals and is aligned with Government key strategies including the national Development Strategy 1, the Agricultural Food Systems Transformation Strategy, the Livestock Development Implementation Strategy (LDIS) and the Dairy Sector Strategic Plan. The overall objective of the Breeding Strategy is improved genetics and increased national herd size targeting to increase the total national herd from 40, 000 to 60,000 dairy animals in 2025.
Minister Masuka applauded ZADF, private sector and the development partners as WE Effect for their efforts in playing a transformative role in the dairy value chain.
“Your efforts are indeed remarkable, the sky being the limit, and with the continued Government support, Zimbabwe will be milk sufficient and have sustainable dairy operations.
Government will continue to support dairy industry operations and development initiatives for farmers, input suppliers, financial services providers, processors and development partners,” Said Masuka.
Dairy production and development support the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals number 2 (SDG2) which seeks to “end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.
This is in line with the Government’s Vision 2030 which targets to achieve an “Empowered and prosperous upper middle-income society by 2030”.
Director of the department of livestock research in the ministry Andrew Chamisa giving the welcome remarks and background on behalf of the Agricultural Research Innovation and Development Directorate (formerly DR&SS) on the event said the launch of the Strategy resonates well with the Livestock Growth Plan that is calling on all farmers across the regions to promote milk production as it enhances household food and nutrition security.
“We are all aware that milk production is being done by both small scale and large scale producers. All these farmers require cows to produce milk. Currently replacement animals are imported or replaced through on-farm breeding programs, which is not enough to meet the demand for dairy animals required by existing and aspiring dairy farmers,” said Chamisa.
He further highlighted that this Strategy is aiming to address the shortage of dairy animals and supply chain gaps that were observed by the industry.
He thanked the host farmer Mr and Mrs Kunaka for their perseverance and passion for the industry.
“I’m told he left a high paying job as a pilot to come and start this dairy enterprise that we are witnessing today,” Chamisa revealed.
Bella Vista Farm owner Cyprian Kunaka Jnr once a pilot but now flies for pleasure said it was through passion and hardworek to achieve what he has now. “It is a combination of passion and hardworek,” he said.
Bela Vista is a 45 hectares farm with 11 hectares arable land. It was owned by Cyprian Kunaka Jnr’s late father Cyprian Kunaka Snr who bought it in 2006. The farm started with 13 cows and they now have 170 cows milking 80 cows which produces 2 000 litres a day.
“We are hoping that by the year we will be able to produce 100 00 litres per month compared to 60 000 per month they are achieving,” he said.
Government is implementing the devolution agenda which is seeing provinces leverage on their various economic opportunities to contribute towards national development.