Evaluation of the sustainability of a breed improvement programme after the termination of funding support: a case study of the Zimnyama community based beef breeding scheme.
In Zimbabwe the breeding of improved beef cattle for sale has been a preserve for large scale commercial farmers with more than 300 cow breeding herds in large land holdings of 4000 hectares where the cattle have been managed under extensive systems. The fast track land reform programme led to the collapse of the stud beef industry, reduction in farm sizes and transfer of land from about 3000 white commercial farmers to 20000 black communal farmers. As a result the off take in the beef sector fell. This gap in the beef sector and the decrease in sales from the commercial sector provides an opportunity for small holder farmers to participate in breeding of improved beef cattle for sale to increase the off take in the beef industry. The objective of this study was to evaluate the sustainability of community beef breeding scheme of the Zinyama Small scale commercial farming area and therefore establish whether small scale commercial farmers can manage breeding programmes, as well as ascertain the productivity of the improved bulls used to establish the breeding scheme under extensive systems. A semi-structured questionnaire was administered to a total of 20 farmers who formed the whole of the breeding scheme. The data collected included household demographics, herd structure, breeding practices, herd management, marketing, socio-economic impacts, challenges and impacts of withdrawal of funds on the breeding project. Data analysis was performed using statistical package for social science, version 16 for descriptive statistics, Microsoft excel was used to compute bullying rates and an unbalanced anova using gen stat was used to determine the productivity of the different types of bulls. The herd sizes have increased by 77%, 96%, 71% and 60% for the white Brahman, black Brahman, Tuli cluster and Nguni cluster respectively. The highest number of offspring’s was produced by the white Brahman (4 per year per farmer) which were significantly different at (p<0.05) from the other bull types. The mean age at first calving of the offspring from the improved bull was lower than that of unproved breeds. The main challenges affecting the programme are lack of adequate feed, uncontrolled mating and lack of functional fences. The main impacts of withdrawal of funds on the breeding programme are collapse of the restocking programme, lack of improvement of water points, and lack of cohesion among farmers. The majority of farmers had sold the offspring and had started making money from the project. The majority of the farmers were using informal markets. It was concluded that improved beef breeds can survive and produce under extensive system. Breeding schemes can be a viable and sustainable method of income generation method of farmers if the market issues are addressed. Small holder farmers can manage cattle breeding scheme however they should shift away from the donor dependence syndrome. It is also a prerequisite that members of the same group have the same breeding objectives so as to ensure sustainability in community breeding schemes.