Impact of introducing improved beef cattle in a communal area: Findings of a Tracer Study of improved bulls donated to traditional Leaders In Masendu Ward Of Bulilima District.

Author: Ncube, Alexia

Cattle rearing is a norm in communal areas of Zimbabwe and that is why most developmental strategies that are aimed at improving in these areas have targeted cattle projects as interventions. However, these projects have long concentrated on production factors at the expense of socio-economic values and marketing aspects of communal farmers. Communal farmers are characterised by poor resource base such as little use of modern technology, undeveloped infrastructure, weak institutional support and low production levels. The objective of the study was to assess the impact of introducing improved beef breeds in Bulilima District of Matabeleland South in Zimbabwe. The study was conducted in Masendu Ward comprising of Luvuluma, Mambo, Tjeboroma, Makumbi, Thandawani and Masendu Central (with one sub village, Muke) villages. The villages were selected on the basis of the Kellogg Foundation donation of improved beef bulls donated in the year 2007 to traditional leaders. The intervention had the objective to improve the genetic merit of the communal cattle. Semi-structured questionnaires were used to collect data. The tracer study used a sample size of 13 farmers (An informant and beneficiary from each village plus the chief) to trace the fate of the improved beef bulls in the low management system. To arrive at the results the data was analysed using SPSS and descriptive statistics. The results show that the improved bulls survived in the first three years but died from drought and diseases (the major constraints to cattle production in the area). The surviving breed is the Afrikaner while the Tuli and Nguni died. The Tuli and Afrikaner both have offspring within the communal herds. Farmers from the study area all recommended further donation of improved breeds because they believe significant impacts could be noted with more similar donations. They also believe better prices were achievable at the market if the communal herd genetic merit was improved. Therefore, the key conclusion is that communal farmers had a positive perception on improving the communal herds using improved beef breeds. For effective interventions and for improved cattle production there is need for linkages between social, economic, political and environmental matters or the use of a multi-sectoral approach to address different challenges that are facing communal farmers so that even on introduction of improved breeds into the communal setup their adaptability is not restricted by poor management strategies. Reinforcements in terms of infrastructure and institutional support are also required to improve communal cattle production therefore positively influencing marketing in the future.