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UN pledges R37 billion towards Zimbabwe’s drought crisis

The UN has pledged to support Zimbabwe’s call to mobilise more than R37 billion after President Emmerson Mnangagwa recent declaration of a national State of Disaster following the devastating El Niño-induced drought.

UN pledges R37 billion towards Zimbabwe’s drought crisis
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The UN, as part of its national anticipatory action and early response, had already allocated R93 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund in December last year.

The State of Disaster was declared by Mnangagwa after assessments of destruction caused by the drought. UN Resident and Humanitarian coordinator in Zimbabwe, Edward Kallon, said the UN would help Zimbabwe mobilise the required resources.

READ Agritourism kept farm afloat during drought

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“The UN acknowledged the severe impact of the ongoing dry spell in Zimbabwe and Southern Africa and pledges its support to the Government of Zimbabwe in mobilising resources to tackle the El Nino-induced drought. Efforts are underway to finalise a response plan focusing on food security, health, education, shelter and other essential areas to address the needs of those affected by the crisis,” he said.

“This crisis has far-reaching consequences across sectors such as food and nutrition security, health, water resources, education and livelihoods, highlighting the urgency of the situation.” reported that more than 2,7 million Zimbabweans would face challenges caused by insufficient food this year. According to Mnangagwa, the 2023/24 grain harvest was expected to bring in just over half of the cereals needed to feed the nation.

Zimbabwe is the third country in Southern Africa to declare a national disaster due to drought, after Malawi and Zambia. The drought has also affected electricity production as Zimbabwe is highly reliant on hydroelectric power.

READ Farmers need help to survive the drought

According to the World Meteorological Organization, the latest El Niño is one of the five strongest on record. Although El Niño peaked in December, above-normal temperatures until were still expected until May. Rainfall in January and February was the lowest in 40 years, according to the UN.

The UN emphasised the importance of enhancing resilience-building and climate adaptation efforts to address the effects of such extreme weather events and to combat the overarching climate crisis.

The UN also recognised the Government of Zimbabwe’s efforts and that of the humanitarian partners for proactive planning and early actions to bolster community resilience.

The sectors targeted with the advance allocation included water, hygiene, sanitation and health, including response to the cholera outbreak, as well as agriculture, food security and nutrition.

Zimbabwe sees decline in crop production due to drought

El Niño continues its severe impact on Zimbabwe, with a marked decline in crop production. The total area planted to crops in Zimbabwe in the 2023/24 season declined 6% when compared to the previous season, that of cereals declined 6% and maize grain declined 12%.

Zimbabwe sees decline in crop production due to drought
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This was ascribed to the persistent drought in that country, and the extreme drought conditions in February 2024 in particular.

According to a report by Reuters, Zimbabwe’s tobacco production was expected to go down by at least 10% to 265 million kg in 2024 from a record crop of 296 million kg last year because of the drought.

The area of tobacco cultivated declined 3% to 113 000ha in the current season, from 117 000ha last year. In Zimbabwe, Africa’s largest tobacco producer, the crop was one of the country’s main foreign currency earners.

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READ Factors influencing maize yield

It brought in a record $1,2 billion (about R22,8 billion) in 2023 from exports mostly to China.

The updated Southern Africa Climatic Outlook Forum seasonal forecast indicates that below-normal rainfall and dry conditions could continue across the country in April 2024.

According to the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, persistent dry conditions caused a marked shortage of indigenous vegetables and fruits, green harvest and limited casual labour opportunities.

Some traders are reported to have started hoarding grains in anticipation of a poor harvest, which could cause price increases.

READ Reducing water loss from soil

The situation is exacerbated by the fact that Zimbabwe’s annual blended inflation rate rose to 47,6% in February 2024 from 34,8% in January 2024. Consumer prices rose 5,4% month-on-month.

The Food Poverty Line in the local ZWL currency increased 78% compared to January 2024, while the Total Consumption Poverty Line increased 178%.

According to the World Food Programme’s HungerMap, the number of Zimbabweans facing insufficient food consumption and those employing ‘crisis and above’ food-based coping strategies went up over the past three months.

“The cost of the monitored minimum expenditure food basket (MEB) increased by an average of 57% for rural markets and 49% for urban markets in the local currency and remained stable in USD terms. The price of fuel rose in ZWL and remained stable in USD terms,” the report said.

Zimbabwe’s tobacco producers earn less despite increased exports

Zimbabwe’s tobacco exports increased markedly in the first two months of 2024. A total volume of 56 500t of tobacco was exported in January and February.

Zimbabwe’s tobacco producers earn less despite increased exports
Tobacco exports from Zimbabwe have seen a remarkable increase in 2024, but farmers are struggling to reap the benefits due to market challenges and loan repayments, highlighting the complexities of the industry.
Photo: FW Archive
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This represented a 106% upsurge from the 27 600t exported during the same period in 2023, according to data released by Zimbabwe’s Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB).

The value of tobacco exports also rose steeply, reaching US$369,6 million (about R6,9 billion) in 2024 compared with US$122,2 million (R2,28 billion) in 2023. This presented a growth of nearly 200%, according to

The Far East was the largest recipient of tobacco exports in both years, with exports to the region more than quadrupling in 2024 to 40 600t. Exports to Africa and the Middle East also showed significant increases.

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READ Tobacco Mosaic Virus: symptoms, transmission and management

After export earnings, however, a significant portion of the proceeds were used to pay off offshore loans used to finance tobacco contract schemes, further diminishing net earnings.

The Zimbabwe Tobacco Growers Association (ZiToGA) said in a statement that the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe’s (RBZ) foreign currency retention facility, pegged at 25% in local currency, had been eroded by inflation.

“The issue of forex retention, which was limited to 75% forex and 25% local currency, will negatively affect the profitability of the farming business to the ordinary growers as most, if not all, production costs are in US dollars,” said ZiToGA.

According to ZiToGA, the 25% component would be eroded by the parallel market rate that is currently trading at almost double the official market rate.

The association pointed out that there was a real need for the state, the TIMB, growers’ associations and other stakeholders to act collectively for the benefit of tobacco growers.

“To make it worse,” stated ZiToGA, “merchants offer growers manipulatively low prices on their high-quality tobacco during the marketing season. They are not worried about the welfare and financial empowerment of the key producers but mainly focus on making huge profits. The system also compromises the independence of the growers, stripping them of their powers to choose a market of their choice.”

Zambia diversifies and revives cashew production

Zambia’s production of cashew nuts has stagnated since the early 1990s due to a lack of education, contact with extension officers and input costs such as fertiliser and pesticides.

Zambia diversifies and revives cashew production
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The revival of the cashew nut subsector, planned for the next five years, is taking off through the Cashew Infrastructure Development Project.

A milestone for Zambia, it has been made possible through assistance from the African Development Bank and Tanzania.

READ New vaccine plant to help Zambia combat FMD

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Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema has recognised the cashew subsector’s potential and wants to promote production because of its market value.

Cashew nuts fetch an average price of US$8 000/t (about R154 000/t), compared with Zambia’s main export metal, copper, which fetches around US$9 500/t (R183 000/t).

Cashew nut trees take three years to produce significant yields. As a result, farmers in the subsector are encouraged to maximise the potential of their trees, and to diversify where possible with other value-added crops.

Hichilema recently visited a cashew plantation owned by the Export Trading Group (ETG). He called for the advancement of cashew production in the Western Province, which shares its border with Angola.

The cashew nut sector has the potential to turn around the economy of the country, he said.

ETG programmes officer Nyambe Luhila commended the government for considering reviving the subsector and called for an improvement in technologies, including planting high-quality trees and seed that, when mature, can be exported.

READ The basics of growing groundnuts on a small scale

Meanwhile, cashew nuts agronomist Francis Boma cited pests as one of the concerns affecting production.

He said the ETG was undertaking disease control and management through the development of pesticides.

Former president Edgar Lungu had in 2021 set the tone for revamping cashew nut production, with the government investing millions in the industry, which once thrived in western Zambia but was overtaken by various factors, including diseases.

Under the relaunch, a total 1,7 million cashew nut trees were planted. There were plans to exceed six million trees to benefit the country, with anticipated export gains from the new cash crop.

The Cashew Infrastructure Development Project has targeted 60 000 smallholder farmers, half of them women, and 7 000 youths, each planting 1ha or around 100 cashew trees.

About 6 000 full-time jobs were expected to be created along the cashew value chain.

Lungu lauded former Tanzanian president John Magufuli for donating 25 million tons of cashew seedlings to Zambia, saying he envisaged this would help the country set a new destiny in agricultural development.

New vaccine plant to help Zambia combat FMD

Zambia is mobilising US$22 million (about R415 million) to set up a veterinary medicine production plant to help mitigate the high rate of cattle and other animal fatalities that have affected local farms.

New vaccine plant to help Zambia combat FMD
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It is imperative for the country to address diseases coupled with pathogen concerns as it prepares for goats to be exported to Saudi Arabia and other parts of the world.

Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) is one of the major diseases that has affected the livestock sector since it broke out in the country in 1993.

READ Protect your animals against foot-and-mouth disease

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Livestock and fisheries minister Makozo Chikote said that imports of vaccines for cattle and other farm animals were not cost-effective and prohibited the prospects of the livestock sector to grow. He said an ultra-modern vaccine factory was needed to help the sector.

Chikote noted the impact of FMD on the sector, saying the disease had remained a major setback to the growth of the industry. Vaccines are currently imported at great cost and many farmers fail to access them due to lack of funds or resources.

“We have great challenges eradicating the disease because of its complex nature, and at the same time we have to import vaccines every month, and this is costly,” he said.
Zambia’s imports of veterinary vaccines for uses other than FMD cost millions of dollars and set the sector back drastically.

The country is expected to provide Saudi Arabia with an average of one million goats per month and the conditional demands of monitoring pathogens are a major challenge that could hinder exports.

READ Diagnosis and treatment of the main livestock diseases

The government noted that most infectious diseases were caused by pathogens, which included bacteria, fungi, protozoa, worms, viruses and even infectious proteins called prions.

Chikote said: “Exporting goats to Saudi Arabia is a good foreign exchange earner, but it also has challenges because there are conditions that the animals have to undergo or be exposed to before they can be exported. At the same time, we don’t have the capacity to supply one million goats monthly.”

The minister said that the government, with help from African Agrovet Zambia and Dumas Pharmaceuticals, had mobilised funds to set up a veterinary manufacturing plant before the end of this year to help avail the vaccines in real time and defray import costs.

Director of Dumas Pharmaceuticals, Rajah Vashista, said that the two partners remained optimistic that the construction of the veterinary plant would help Zambia reduce import costs by over 50%, redress various agriculture-related challenges, and enhance animal welfare.

“We are setting up a plant in Zambia, which will help smallholder farmers, many of whom are faced with animal health concerns. We believe this will cut the cost of doing business for many people, especially those that don’t have insurance,” he said.

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Kenya’s black rhino numbers quadruple since 1984

Black rhinos in Kenya were on the brink of extinction three decades ago, but their numbers have since quadrupled from 240 in 1984 to 966 in 2024.

Kenya’s black rhino numbers quadruple since 1984
Kenya has undertaken a large relocation of black rhinos to sanctuaries.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
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This recovery has been ascribed to sharpened-up security that has brought more poachers to justice over the past three decades.

Kenya’s black rhino numbers have increased so fast that they are now overcrowding sanctuaries in the country.

One of the remedies to prevent overpopulation includes relocation, with 21 eastern black rhinos recently being relocated to the Loisaba Conservancy in Laikipia County. According to a report published by EIN Presswire, the last rhino in Loisaba was killed 50 years ago by poachers.

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“It’s incredibly exciting to be part of the reintroduction of rhinos to a landscape where they’ve been absent for 50 years,” said Tom Silvester, CEO of the Loisaba Conservancy.

“It is a mark of Kenya’s conservation success. Some [11 736ha] have been set aside for the rhinos’ new sanctuary.” The recent relocation was led by Kenya Wildlife Services. The animals, which can weigh up to 1 400kg, were moved by truck to their new home.

Supporting the project were the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, the Nature Conservancy, the Elewana Collection and Space for Giants. The rhinos came from Nairobi National Park, Ol Pejeta Conservancy and Lewa Wildlife Conservancy.

“The reintroduction of the eastern black rhino to Loisaba is a testament to our collective ability to enact meaningful change for Kenya’s iconic wildlife and be a force for nature,” said Dr Max Graham, CEO of conservation organisation, Space for Giants.

Because of heightened security and success in bringing poachers to justice, Kenya is now home to the third-largest rhino population in Africa, after South Africa and Namibia.
Research has shown that Kenya needs a stable number of 2 000 eastern black rhinos for the species to survive in the face of threats to their survival.

The EIN Presswire report said the key to success has been Kenya’s efficiency in safeguarding keystone species like rhino in protected areas. Black rhinos were solitary animals, and without enough room to disperse, could not be encouraged to breed.

With some of Kenya’s existing 16 sanctuaries nearing maximum capacity, there was an urgent need to create new ones offering ideal conditions, such as the right habitat, effective security, and strong support from neighbouring communities.

Limit on animal feed imports from SA hampers Namibian livestock farmers

The strict regulations introduced by the Namibian government on the importation of animal feed from South Africa pose a serious challenge for livestock producers in the southern region of the country, according to Rina Hough, commodity analyst of the Namibia Agricultural Union (NAU).

Limit on animal feed imports from SA hampers Namibian livestock farmers
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Producers find it difficult to import animal feed from South African markets because of the official regulations aimed at combatting the spread of foot-and-mouth (FMD) disease to Namibia.

Hough said animal feed prices as well as transport costs in Namibia were exceedingly high, which made the importation of South African feed and fodder a good option for producers in the south.

“The northern parts of Namibia also received below-normal rains so far this summer, and that adds additional pressure on the local supply of animal feed. Farmers in the south reported that grazing in the region had not fully recuperated following the 2021/22 drought that occurred in the area. For them it is a much better option to import feed from areas such as Upington and the Western Cape at a reasonable price than to make use of locally produced fodder,” she told Farmer’s Weekly.

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Hough said the NAU office received many inquiries about the importation of animal feed from South Africa. However, it must be kept in mind that South Africa’s FMD-free status had not been reinstated by the World Organisation for Animal Health since the outbreak of the disease a few years ago.

According to Hough, importing animal feed into Namibia was indeed possible, but strict requirements had been issued by the Directorate of Veterinary Services (DVS) of Namibia.

Only animal feed coming from places in South Africa where no FMD occurred and where strict biosecurity measures were applied, were allowed into Namibia. The area where the forage was grown and harvested needed to be free from any cloven-hoofed animal activity.

The feed needed to be treated either through steaming or fumigation as prescribed by the DVS.  It was also vital that transport vehicles were cleaned and disinfected according to official requirements.

Dr Vistorina Benhard, Namibia’s state veterinarian involved in import/export control, said in a statement the starting point for any producer wishing to import animal feed from South Africa would be to contact their local DVS office before any steps were taken.

Previous articleA more holistic way of farming

Annelie Coleman represents Farmer’s Weekly in the Free State, North West and Northern Cape.
Agriculture is in her blood. She grew up on a maize farm in the Wesselsbron district where her brother is still continuing with the family business.
Annelie is passionate about the area she works in and calls it ‘God’s own country’. She’s particularly interested in beef cattle farming, especially with the indigenous African breeds.
She’s an avid reader and owns a comprehensive collection of Africana covering hunting in colonial Africa, missionary history of same period, as well as Rhodesian literature.

Zimbabwe’s 2024 maize harvest expected to shrink by 50%

Zimbabwe’s staple maize harvest is expected to halve to 1,1 million tons in 2024 due to an El Niño-induced drought, Reuters recently reported.

Zimbabwe’s 2024 maize harvest expected to shrink by 50%
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The country needs about 1,8 million tons of maize annually for human consumption.

Zimbabwe’s Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube said on Wednesday that a huge grain deficit threatened food security in poor households. He said in the Reuters report that the country’s agriculture sector would shrink by 4,9% in 2024 due to the drought.

The United States Agency for International Development’s Famine Early Warning Systems Network meanwhile cautioned governments, donors and humanitarian bodies to prepare for high food assistance needs in Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique and Madagascar throughout 2024 to early 2025 because of El Niño weather patterns.

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Farmers in Zimbabwe delayed planting maize amidst high temperatures and dry conditions linked to El Niño.

Only 95 156ha of land had been planted to summer crops, mainly grains, by 10 December 2023, a sharp decline from 465 707ha by the same time in 2022.

The World Bank announced earlier in December 2023 that the growth in the Zimbabwean economy was projected to slow to 3,5% in 2024 as agricultural output is expected to suffer from depressed global demand, especially from China, and predicted erratic and below-average rainfall caused by the El Niño weather pattern.

According to the bank, the weaker global demand for minerals would reduce the contribution of the mining sector to economic growth. The bank said in a statement the continued implementation of economic reforms would serve to cool down inflation and relieve exchange rate pressures.

Previous articleQuality feathers give Oudtshoorn ostrich farmer the edge

Annelie Coleman represents Farmer’s Weekly in the Free State, North West and Northern Cape.
Agriculture is in her blood. She grew up on a maize farm in the Wesselsbron district where her brother is still continuing with the family business.
Annelie is passionate about the area she works in and calls it ‘God’s own country’. She’s particularly interested in beef cattle farming, especially with the indigenous African breeds.
She’s an avid reader and owns a comprehensive collection of Africana covering hunting in colonial Africa, missionary history of same period, as well as Rhodesian literature.

Botswana border shut could lead to cheaper fresh produce in SA

Botswana has extended its import ban on fresh produce from South Africa, continuing to defy the free trade agreement that is in place.

Botswana border shut could lead to cheaper fresh produce in SA
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The announcement by the Botswana government was made on Monday. This comes as the export ban currently in place was due to expire at the end of December 2023. Instead, the ban will now continue until the end of 2025, with the number of items banned doubling as of July next year. Staple foods like tomatoes, potatoes and onions are among the largest commodities affected.

South Africa’s minister of Agriculture, Land Reform, and Rural Development, Thoko Didiza, is reportedly urgently seeking a meeting with her counterpart in Botswana to resolve the breach of the Southern Africa Customs Union agreement.

Didiza said the restrictions had a negative impact on bilateral trade between the two countries. South Africa supplied almost 80% of Botswana’s food prior to the ban. The country is however seeking to boost its own farmers to allow the country to become self-sufficient in food production. Since the inception of the ban, Botswana’s fresh produce import bill has been cut by 71%.

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The consequences for South African farmers are felt in price reductions at market level, since demand from exporters diminished. Hendrik Eksteen, CEO of Grow Fresh Produce Agents, told Farmer’s Weekly that while South Africa could absorb the extra volumes as a result of the lost Botswana market, it affected the supply and demand balance, resulting in lower prices.

He lamented that the Botswana government seemed to have little regard for the free trade agreement in place, and was known to shut their borders on short notice when local vegetable supply became available.

“Often the restrictions on trade are not properly communicated, and it is the buyers that procure produce from the municipal markets to sell in Botswana that suffer the most losses, since they often only find out about the ban when they get to the border.”

Commodity organisations like Potatoes SA and farming groups in South Africa have repeatedly tried to negotiate with the Botswana government to lift the ban, but to no avail. The industry is now looking to Didiza for a solution.

Namibia’s livestock industry excelled in third quarter of 2023

The Namibian meat industry recorded a top performance during the third quarter of 2023 in comparison with the third quarter of 2022.

Namibia’s livestock industry excelled in third quarter of 2023
Photo: FW Archive
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According to a statement by the Meat Board of Namibia, beef exports increased substantially during the third quarter of 2023. This was ascribed to, among others, a doubling of quarterly performance by export abattoirs in comparison with 2022.

A review by the Meat Board showed that a total of 91 154 cattle were marketed in the third quarter of 2023, an increase of 52,03% from 59 957 cattle marketed during the same period last year.

The increased sales were mainly driven by increased slaughtering activities at export-approved abattoirs. These facilities slaughtered 34 398 head of cattle, while a total of 5 066 were marketed at Meat Board-registered B- and C-class abattoirs during the third quarter of 2023.

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“A significant number of all live cattle (99,1%) were exported and marketed on the hoof to South Africa (51 206 out of 51 690), whereas other Southern African Development Community countries accounted for the remaining 484. This represents less than 1% of total live exports,” the Meat Board management said in the statement.

Namibia listed a growth of 60,94% in the total number of sheep marketed in the third quarter of 2023, with 190 825 sheep marketed during the third quarter of 2023, compared with 118 569 marketed in the same period last year.

The increase can be attributed to increased live exports to South Africa, as well as slaughtering activities at export-approved abattoirs. A total of 150 175 sheep were exported to South Africa in the third quarter of 2023, accounting for 78,7% of the total marketing.

The number of pigs slaughtered at Meat Board-approved abattoirs went down by 4,23% during the period under review to a total of 11 020 pigs.

Meanwhile, the third quarter of 2023 recorded a total of 46 807 goats marketed, bringing year-to-date marketing to 104 824 goats.

According to Thinus Pretorius, chairman of the Namibia Agricultural Union, that country was a net exporter of red meat and beef and was exporting to, among others, the US, Scandinavia, China and Norway.