Repairing market access infrastructure important for livestock farmers

Source: Repairing market access infrastructure important for livestock farmers | Sunday News (Business)

ONE conspicuous damage done by excessive rains received this year is on our rural roads. Most rural roads which are by nature mostly gravel roads were either completely washed away on some sections or are generally severely degraded.

Some of our rural roads have always been bad generally and the rains received this year further worsened the situation.

This means that some rural areas where most smallholder livestock farmers are found, are either completely inaccessible or difficult to reach. While this may seem not related to livestock production especially to the small picture viewers, those in the know will appreciate that an inaccessible area cannot market and trade its product.

No buyers big or small will be able to buy animals from your area because his or her truck will not be able to come and collect the animals. I call for communities to work with powers that be such as the local authority to attend to critical areas such as washed away bridges and severely degraded areas.

It will be helpful for us as community members to take the initiative and see how we can begin to address the challenge on our own and then engage the powers-that -be for issues that are completely out of our reach such as repairing a totally washed away bridge. I passed through Mathambo area in Lupane District recently and found the community working with the District Development Fund (DDF) to repair a small bridge that was washed away. As the bridge was being repaired a small detour was created for vehicles but the area is so constricted that big trucks and buses cannot pass. This means beyond that bridge the entire community is not accessible.

I was, however, impressed by the level of community participation which means the works will be completed in good time.

There is a whole range of critical infrastructure that is important for marketing our animals but as communities we let it dilapidate to an unusable state. A good example being our handling of pens at various cattle sale points. You will find poles and droppers rotting and falling with no one caring and the common attitude is that, “council collects levies hence they should repair the pens.”

That is true, however, it is important to realise that when the pens become completely unusable no sale will be held there because no buyer wants to be chasing after an animal after it has escaped from a porous handling pen. Some buyers have lost animals completely after they bolted from the sale pens and ran to the mountains! It is common knowledge that after the completion of the auction, liability on the animal is immediately transferred from the seller to the buyer, so now the buyer has to run through the bushes chasing after an excited animal or he has to engage locals to do that, obviously at an extra cost.

The rodeo with animals does not end at sale pens, because in some areas there is no loading ramp for several kilometres such that any animal bought directly from the farmer becomes a serious mission to load onto the truck. It is a complete lunar park type of amusement rodeo when you watch elderly men and women struggling to load the animal into a truck, at great risk of injury to the animal or to themselves.

Yet constructing a loading ramp is such a small mission that can be done using locally-available resources and a few bags of cement that an entire village can easily afford. The import of this week’s discussion, therefore is that as livestock farmers let’s do whatever is within our means to enable buyers to reach our areas, buy, load and transport the animals as painless as possible. We need the market for our commodity and hence it is not prudent to remain cut out of the rest of the world.

Uyabonga umntakaMaKhumalo. Feedback cell 0772851275.

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