MINISTER of Agriculture Perrance Shiri, pictured, says farmers should not sit by and watch their cattle succumbing to diseases and drought, but should instead sell part of their livestock to invest in the surviving ones.

This comes after the country lost about 400 000 cattle in the past year due to a combination of diseases, drought and panic slaughtering.

“A number of cattle have succumbed to January disease (Theileriosis) which is caused by ticks. We encourage farmers to sell off some of the cattle and invest the money for the benefit of the remaining animals.

“It is not good for farmers to lose their entire herd because they do not want to sell a few to save the rest,” Shiri said at a rally in Chikomba on Friday.

“After selling part of the herd, the farmer can be able to buy the chemicals needed to prevent and treat animal diseases.”

A combination of droughts and diseases has affected the national herd, which stood at 5,5 million at its peak, but is now estimated to be half that number.

Meanwhile, though the rains received in most parts of the country have brought some cheer to farmers, Shiri was not impressed by the crop situation in Wedza and Chivhu.

“What I saw in Wedza and Chivhu is not encouraging at all. The crops failed to respond to the rains received so far. The situation is devastating and chances of a good harvest there are close to zero,” Shiri said.

The minister reiterated the need for adopting small grains such as millet and sorghum which are drought resistant to avert hunger in the future.

“We are having frequent dry spells due to climate change.

“We encourage our farmers to plant different types of crops and at different stages. If one crop fails, farmers will have something to harvest,” Shiri said.

“Cowpeas, rapoko, maize, groundnuts are among crops that every farmer must plant.

“We have our Matopos institution which is developing seed for traditional grains to increase yields.

“If farmers implement all these strategies, no one will die of hunger,” he said.