For years, Zimbabwean communalfarmers resorted to marketing their cattle informally and basing prices on how their animals looked at time of sale. Often misinformed about market prices by middlemen looking to make a profit, many farmers were not making enough money to get by.
A lack of technical skills and knowledge of the value of their animals, farm investment, and good animal husbandry practices further limited their ability to fully commercialize and earn a decent living.
To bridge this information gap, Feed the Future is working with 3,000 smallholder beef producers in Zimbabwe to help them turn their small operations into profitable businesses.
Using a holistic approach, Feed the Future trains farmers on good business practices such as creating a budget that includes marketing activities, identifying lucrative markets within their reach, organizing themselves into groups, and negotiating with buyers for better prices. Farmers are learning essential animal husbandry practices too, such as cattle pen fattening; animal health, nutrition, and breeding; cattle and meat grading; and strategic selling. The program is also connecting farmers directly with abattoirs (slaughterhouses).
Many farmers are achieving success as a result. While some were selling their cattle to middlemen for no more than $300 before Feed the Future, they now generate between $600 and $1,000 per cattle after using pen fattening strategies to add value to their animals.
In the southern town of Shurugwi, Chengeto Mudhimbu sold three cattle to a local abattoir, which earned him a net income of $1,910 from the animals. He re-invested this money into his business, pairing it with personal savings to purchase a mill so he can produce low-cost feed for his livestock using locally-available feed sources. Mudhimbu is earning extra income by providing milling services to other farmers.
“I am grateful to this program for linking us directly to the market; I will continue to use this route to optimize my earnings,” said Morgan Mavharingana, a smallholder beef farmer in Chipinge in southeastern Zimbabwe.
Farmers are also leveraging their improved access to markets to manage herds by selling steers, bulls, and older oxen and cows. With the income, they’re purchasing breeding cows and heifers as more female animals in the herd stimulate growth and maximize return.
When the program first started, farmers were hesitant to sell to abattoirs due to misinformation from middlemen. Similarly, abattoirs lacked an understanding of smallholder beef farming systems. The program has fostered positive connections between the farmers and the abattoirs through training and advising on good business practices; market intelligence; technical livestock production; and group organization and negotiation.
“We have assigned an employee to work on the outreach program to encourage farmer groups to market directly to our abattoir,” said Kobus Raath, manager for Koala Park Abattoir. Sabie Meats, another abattoir in the area, is holding cattle market days for farmers.
With their new knowledge and better income, smallholder beef farmers are making profitable livestock investments and building resilience to shocks so they’re better prepared for whatever the future may bring.
The Feed the Future Zimbabwe Livestock Development Program is a USAID-funded program that works to reduce rural poverty and improve household food security among smallholder producers through increased agricultural production, productivity,and market connections in the beef and dairy cattle sectors.