By AMOS BATISAYI
FOR many years Gokwe has been known for producing the bulk of the country’s cotton.
At one point the district produced 60% of the country’s white gold.
With cotton prices falling on the world market coupled with non-payment by the State-owned Cottco, a lot of farmers stopped growing the crop in frustration.
But they struggled to replace the crop with other projects.
Only a few farmers in the district considered cattle ranging as a business.
Communal farmers keep cattle as a symbol of wealth.
Thanks to a European Union-funded project, Beef Enterprise Strengthening and Transformation (Best) many farmers have changed their perception of the value chain.
The smallholder farmers received a timely boost after a European Union-funded project launched a cattle business centre (CBC) in Gokwe South last week.
The main cattle business centre, which was launched in Mateta area, 60 kilometres from Gokwe centre is one of the five satellite facilities put in place to cater for smallholder cattle farmers.
These satellite CBCs bring services closer to the communities.
The centres offer farmers access to stockfeeds, veterinary services, loans, extension services, improved marketing of the cattle and good markets.
It operates as a one-stop shop.
“Livestock production in the Midlands province is one of the major sources of livelihoods for farmers. Beef production remains a part of our livelihood with greater opportunity for commercialisation,” senator Larry Mavima said.
“Local leadership must perpetuate the operation of Mateta 2 CBC even after the ZAGP-BEST project.
“The CBC is already functional as farmers are now accessing some of the beef value chain services which include, business development, cattle fattening pens, walk-in cattle sales, solar-powered water system, offices, storage facilities, stockfeed, drugs, loans, pluralistic trainings and will soon be accessing bulls among other things from this CBC.”
Johannes Chikarate, head of Best projects said the project would improve the lives of Gokwe communities.
“The project is on course to contribute to development of a robust and competitive beef value chain, that promotes enhanced trade, employment creation, food security, and inclusive green economic growth,” he said.
“As part of the project we will be bringing bulls in the district to improve the breeds.”
Cornwell Tavengwa chairperson of the CBC said: “Through the CBC beef farmers will be able to market their cattle through an auction system which will get rid of the middlemen, who have over the years prejudiced cattle farmers by offering low prices.
“Traditionally, farmers used to sell their cattle to middlemen/private buyers.
“The cattle would be sold without being weighed/graded.
“We would sell the cattle at low prices.
“The establishment of the CBC will now see us receiving full value for our cattle as we are now able to sell through an auction system where buyers offer competitive prices”.
The Best project is part of the Zimbabwe Agriculture Growth Programme which is being funded by the European Union.
The project is being implemented in Makoni, Mt Darwin, Gokwe South, Buhera, Shurugwi, Umguza, Lupane, Chiredzi and Mwenezi districts.