SHURUGWI – Some 1 020 families in Musiri under Headman Pisira in Chief Banga, Ward 5 in Shurugwi have come together to form sustainable cattle ranching clusters that are bound to see improvement of pastures, rehabilitation of degraded land, an increase in cattle herds and general uplifting of the standard of life.
The project which started in 2013 was initiated by Njeremoto Biodiversity Institute (NBI), a non-governmental organisation whose business is to create sustainable management of semi-arid land in Zimbabwe and it concerns itself with 3, 4 and 5.
The project should eventually see large tracts of semi-arid land that are bare ground being turned into massive grasslands. A total of 2 981herd of cattle are involved in the project.
NBI founder and executive director Osmond Mugweni said in order to increase pastures in a semi-arid area, the farmers use what is called the herd effect where large numbers of cattle are grazed in a small area in a short but planned time.
Because of their large numbers, these animals leave behind cow dung and urine which will fertilise the land. The cow dung also contains grass seed that will germinate. The cattle hooves trample on the ground thereby breaking it and this allow more rain to seep in instead of being wasted as runoff and this increases soil moisture.
After a short while of grazing in small piece of veld, the cattle are removed and the grazed land is left for a long period to recover and this allows new and more grass to grow because of the conditions created by the large herd of cattle.
As more grass grow, the water table rises thereby creating more underground water.
Mugweni said that this is the concept that has been used in Ward 5 where there are 34 village heads and 1 020 families. The whole ward is divided into 14 clusters with an average of 200 cattle per cluster.
The other advantage of this programme is that villagers take turns to herd cattle and this gives them more time to attend to other business. If a cluster consists of 14 families and each family looks after the cattle for two weeks, it means that a family would spent the next 26 weeks without going to herd the cattle.
However, because of improved pastures, such a project results in a quick growth in cattle population one possible challenge is the shortage of water. To overcome that NBI recently established a water point in the area which is driven by solar.
Last week the community was testing the solar borehole which has the capacity to produce about 8 000 litres of water, enough for 400 cattle at any one time.
The borehole was installed courtesy of a UK-based organisation called Tudor.
"We started this project in 2013 and the community had been receptive to it and they have established structures to run it. We have a village structure to run the project at cluster level, then a ward grazing committee at ward level and this consists of 34 people which means one representative from each village.
"We then have an executive committee consisting of 5 people and its headed by the chairman, Winston Mufiri. Some of the executive members including the councillor went for training and a study tour in Namibia where a similar project has been successful and is far ahead of the Zimbabwe venture," said Mugweni.
He said that in Namibia the farmers are so successful that they have built abattoirs on their project and have also formed co-operatives for cattle auctioning.
"This farming concept is really traditional. This is what our forefathers have always done and it proves a lot of ecological literacy on their part. Our forefathers always herded cattle together and villagers took turns to look after the cattle. They never herded cattle in one place for a long time and we are saying let's return to these environmentally friendly farming methods," said Mugweni.
Mugweni who is a former Agritex Provincial Officer for Masvingo formed NBI in 2004 so that it could work together with Smallholder Rural Communities in Zimbabwe, SADC region, Africa and internationally in the rehabilitation of arid and semi-arid land.
Its headoffice is located near Chartsworth in Gutu, some 54km North of Masvingo City along Beitbridge – Harare Highway in the Chatsworth area where a similar project is taking place in the farm. The Institute is registered in Zimbabwe as a Trust.
Mugweni said that the projects that he undertakes are also aimed at fulfilling Sustainable Development goal number 15 which is to protect the environment, to use resources in a sustainable way and combat desertification.
It also addresses the Zimbabwe Government's ZIMASSET.
Mufiri applauded Njeremoto for introducing the project to their area saying that the project has positively changed lives.
Ward 5 councillor, Jennipha Mago also applauded the project.