Mon, 29 Jan 2018 15:03:47 +0000
By Makeli Phiri
NATURE has its own ways to deal with things that we cannot comprehend.
Today our farmers are crying for rains, indeed, the moisture is not enough for the various crops to continue growing. In some places, crops, especially maize has started wilting.
The majority of our farmers, especially in the rural areas are seasonal farmers and also those with not so well established irrigation facilities fall in the category of seasonal farmers, that is how important rain is to food production for this country.
On the 3rd of June 2017, T.B Joshua did prophesy that the southern part of Africa will have problems with the rains, meaning that we shall not have adequate water from the skies to water our fields.
Whatever is to be collected must be stored properly in our own man-made reservoirs so that wastage of this essential commodity does not go to waste that is if they are worthy to be called reservoirs.
To our rural livestock farmer, this is when cattle can be seen to be very important as an alternative crop to rely on when the field crop shows signs of failing and they are important for the following reasons:
– Can be used for agricultural purposes which include ploughing, that is land preparation and so makes the farming activity of this nature easy. Manure from these same animals can be used as fertilizer to be spread out in the field in the absence of money to buy organic fertiliser for the grown crop.
Transport, cattle can be used as a means of transport.
– In these hard times when the rains seem unreliable cattle reared can be a source of security. Animals can be sold and money so needed would be got to pay for debts.
– In the event of crop failure, cattle can be a source of food, that is milk and meat, firstly for own consumption and also for sale.
– Cattle can be a source of security, investment, a store of wealth, can even be a pension for old age.
– Cattle can to a greater extent be used for social ends e.g. bride price in the event of non-availability of money and also for ceremonies should the need arise.
In the absence of adequate moisture, the soil becomes very hard, with the use of cattle to which the plough is attached breaking of the soil is eased up hence an advantage over hoeing and makes the activity less tiring and more land can be cultivated when using a plough.
The use of cattle (oxen) by the farmer in the rural set up would be associated with a shift from subsistence crop production to cash crop production such as rice and maize on a larger scale. These advantages would be appreciated by cattle owners and non-owner alike as they would have access to ploughing through hiring or borrowing animals.
Therefore, in the event of crop failure as is being anticipated during this rainy season, the farmer would still have or gain an income from manure, milk, meat and draught power as products that can bring him some income.
When an animal is slaughtered, the skin can be dried and subsequently used for mats, drums, ropes and tops for wooden stools. These are alternative uses open to the farmers. It is like when one door closes another door opens.
Farmers cannot lose on both sides. God always provides an alternative to any prevailing situation. So for any cattle farmer he has an alternative when the crop fails.
Should the current situation continue, the country can see a good offtake in the traditional sector.
For the rural cattle farmer, should know that selling of animals is never an ending activity. No farmer keeps cattle as an income generating activity, cattle sales are always the result of some economic or social need of the farmer. With this in mind, the reasons for the cattle farmer to sell an animal can roughly be divided into three categories.
– Necessary expenditure, payment of school fees and boarding fees, uniforms for school going children and other family necessities such as food purchases when the harvest is bad as the signs are showing now.
– Problems, such as payments for social misbehaviour, payment for travelling costs to visit relatives who are ill or otherwise in trouble.
– Productive purchases, to buy ploughing equipment, seed and fertilisers, purchasing of breeding stock as replacement of old animals.
The issue of livestock and spreading the risks works well in times like this. When things are not favourable in the farmers’ operational area, some of the animals can be given to distant relatives to rear and also happen that these same relatives can equally send some of their animals to this farmer. This is for security purposes in case of calamities. The benefits also can be in getting new blood into the herd, therefore both parties benefit.
And tending another’s cattle cements the bond of relationship which is then strengthened through the exchange of animals.
Whoever looks after a friend’s cattle benefits and enjoys the income, milk and draught power from these animals. These are the benefits of the care taker.
So the current drought and unfavourable spells should not worry the cattle farmer. But on the other hand it allows the government prepare for events of this nature in putting up facilities that would counter the effect of natural calamities like putting up dams and other types of water conservations in the country for the farmers who have no muscle to put up such infrastructures. A cattle farmer in the rural community has the cattle to fall back on especially in old age. Yes, these are the benefits of keeping cattle among rural livestock farmers.
The nation is crying for rains but God cannot completely ignore his own creation, the other parts of the country are still having good rains and so are in a position to feed the rest of the country.
Cattle would still make the rural farmer pull through this period because it is an alternative source. Life would continue, farming activities equally would be sustained in one way or another.
Benefits can still be many. What has been mentioned is just a tip of the available ways to make the farmer survive. The unfavourable period is there for a purpose. Yes, rains are there to lessen hardships.