Livestock Market Development in Zimbabwe

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Recognising the importance of cattle farming to  livelihoods in rural Zimbabwe, along with the  extreme fragility of the livestock market, Practical  Action embarked on a project to improve incomes for farmers by facilitating a positive transformation of the market. The project focused on Guruve district in Mashonaland central province. Guruve is a typical example of the significance of livestock farming in rural Zimbabwe: of the district’s 20,000 households, 80% keep cattle with a total number of 169,500 animals in 2005.

Over the course of two-and-half years, the project brought stakeholders together in a process that was intended to identify what blockages were hindering the development of a competitive, fair and effective market before facilitating new approaches to addressing those obstacles in a way that would benefit all. Involving all actors in the process of systemic market change proved to be an effective approach, inspiring a number of practical innovations to mitigate market blockages and leading to significant and sustainable improvements to incomes.

Key lessons and insights:

  • Poor farmers, buyers of livestock, private  enterprise and government departments can  collaborate for mutual benefit if the right  incentives exist and are collectively identified.
  • Viable and sustainable markets can develop even in a challenging external environment when all actors in a market chain recognise the potential for enhanced profits. This process can be stimulated through a participatory approach and dialogue between all stakeholders.
  • Market opportunity groups are an effective tool for addressing actors’ interests and constraints, especially if driven by participants themselves.
  • Resource constraints on government departments and extension services can be a catalyst for collaboration with other agents, leading to innovations in the delivery of costeffective services.
  • Community-based actors, specifically local paravets, can be an effective mechanism for the distribution of important inputs (drugs, training and advice) which are critical in improving competitiveness and incomes.
  • Access to feeds in the dry season plays a critical role in animal health and productivity of livestock. Improving the availability of alternative fodder has a positive impact on incomes and therefore encourages farmers’ interest in caring for their livestock.
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