The need to improve the livestock sector cannot be overemphasized as the majority farming community depend on livestock for their basic subsistence foods such as milk, meat, wealth accumulation, prestige, insurance and inheritance.
It is also interesting to note that livestock can be used as a means of transportation, dowry in marriage and to fulfill reciprocal (social) obligations. Consequently, any adverse factor which impacts negatively on livestock threatens the livelihoods.
Factors such as effects of climate change, environmental degradation, diseases and an increase in population have led to a reduction in livestock production thereby affecting livestock families, particularly children, women and elders, as their food security is dependent on livestock.
The depletion in livestock population has prompted the search for and implementation of alternative interventions by government and agencies such as International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and OPEC Fund for international Development (OFID) to shift their programmes towards livestock based interventions aimed at addressing challenges faced in the livestock development.
The Ministry of Fisheries and livestock through Enhanced Smallholder livestock investment programme (E-SLIP) funded by IFAD and OFID has begun implementing a US $12 million restocking and stocking project aimed at increasing livestock production in Chilanga district of Lusaka Province.
E-slip Programme coordinator Chibwe Kaoma said 30 in calf heifer animals worth K25, 000 have been handed over to Lukamantano cooperative in Chilanga district that consists of 30 members were each will own one animal.
Dr. Kaoma explained that when one animal gives birth it is to be given to another member to ensure that everyone benefit from the initiative.
Dr. Chibwe said stocking and re-stocking programme with stronger focus on pro-poor will result into improved animal husbandry and health services and livestock marketing.
Dr. Kaoma said the programme is aimed at empowering 27,000 vulnerable communities with various livestock species such as cattle, goats and pigs among others across the country.
“The Programme goal is to sustainably improve incomes of rural poor households in selected provinces and districts. The development objective is to sustainably improve the production and productivity of key livestock systems of targeted female and male smallholder producers in selected provinces and districts,” said Dr. Kaoma.
Dr. Kaoma said the overall programme objective is to be achieved through two operational components which include disease control and livestock production systems improvement.
E-SLIP is a follow-on programme to the Smallholder Livestock Investment Project (SLIP), which closed on 31st March 2015. The programme was approved in September 2014, and became effective in May 2015. It is a seven-year programme, with a total budget of USD 46.3million.
The Programme area is national in scope but a particular focus is being placed on districts which are prone to disease outbreaks such as transmittable Bovine Pleuro-Pneumonia (CBPP) and East Coast Fever (ECF) as well as Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD). The targeted provinces include North Western, Western, Southern, Muchinga, Northern, Central, Copper-belt, Lusaka and Eastern. Another objective is to sustainably improve incomes of rural poor households in selected provinces and districts. The development objective is to sustainably improve the production and productivity of key livestock systems of targeted female and male smallholder producers in selected provinces and districts through stocking and restocking, water, veterinary service and fodder provision.
Dr. Kaoma emphasized the need to promote animal health and nutrition in order to combat livestock diseases so as to boost the Smallholder Livestock Sector.
“We need to come up with various interventions aimed at promoting animal nutrition to help farmers grow the animal population. Our focus is to improve the lives of rural farmers by increasing their income through promoting animal health,” said Dr. Chibwe.
Dr. Chibwe explained that E-SLIP has other components such as Livestock Production and Productivity and Sustainable Forage and Forage Seed Production and Utilisation to ensure proper diet for livestock.
“The Programme will introduce improved forage genetic material, and develop strategies and delivery approaches for sustainable forage production and utilization. These interventions are designed to improve smallholder livestock production and rangeland productivity,” said Dr. Chibwe.
Dr. Chibwe said under the nutrition components, livestock farmers are taught how to cultivate foliage, which they can use to feed their animals during the dry season, thus promoting animal nutrition.
Dr. Chibwe explained that in order to improve smallholder livestock production and rangeland productivity, the DLD in charge is teaching farmers on forage and forage seed production and utilization and stocking and restocking interventions in the programme areas.
Dr. Chibwe said if properly implemented the initiative will sustainably increase incomes of rural poor households in targeted provinces and districts through Improved production and productivity of key livestock systems of targeted female and male smallholder producers in all the provinces in Zambia.
“The programmes involves awareness and sensitization campaigns, participatory needs assessment, the planning of programme interventions, the finalization of forage production packages for farmers, identification of forage production beneficiaries for the 2019/20 farming season and the review and finalization of Market-oriented livestock production extension methodologies manuals,” said Dr. Chibwe.
Chilanga area Member of Parliament Maria Langa expressed optimism that the initiative will increase efficiencies, sustainability and scaling up forage production as a business especially for women and youths.
Ms. Langa disclosed that the programme will help reduce challenges faced in the livestock producers such as, lack of improved livestock management skills, lack of entrepreneurship skills and difficulties in accessing a wider market for forage among others.
“To improve the productivity of livestock, farmers need to receive training in the management of cattle, goats, pigs and chickens, record keeping, the preparation of business plans to access to credit schemes, costing and marketing,” said Ms.Langa
And a beneficiary from Lukamantano cooperative Helen Kamwendo has appreciated the initiative as it will enable her gain more knowledge and increase livestock production thereby improving income levels.
Ms. Kamwendo pledged to participate in fodder production and any training that would lead to the improvement of the management of livestock.
She disclosed that she will no longer have challenges regarding feed for her animals as she will be able to produce her own pasture to feed livestock.
And Minister of fisheries and livestock Professor Nkandu Luo has observed the need for farmers to venture into other income generation activities such as forage and pasture production as opposed to depending on maize alone.
Professor Luo explained that livestock production has reduced in the country due to diseases and poor diet hence the need for farmers to embrace pasture production and preservation.
She has since urged the beneficiaries to feed and monitor the movements of their heifers to prevent them from contracting diseases such as FMD among others.
She said Lack of transparency in the purchase process is one of the limiting factors in restocking projects hence the need to evaluate the age, reproductive and milk productive volume, adaptability and disease profile of livestock.
Professor Luo has commended International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and Opec Fund for international Development (OFID) for rendering both technical and financial support towards the success of the programme. // NAIS