Matabeleland South Bureau Chief
The Government working with its development partners is setting up water reservoirs along Shashe River stretching from Beitbridge to Plumtree border posts as part of efforts to control cattle movement between Botswana and Zimbabwe.
Already, one reservoir has been established in Gwanda at Patana area in Ward 2 along Shashe River. The development will also help to curb the spread of transboundary diseases fuelled by the illegal movement of cattle between the two counties and rustling.
A total of 14 other reservoirs will be set up along Shashe River stretching from Beitbridge to Plumtree.
Under the project, water will be pumped from the river further inland so that farmers can have water for their animals. Water troughs will be connected to water tanks for animals to drink.
The programme, a collaboration between the Government and Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammmenarbeit (GIZ) of Germany, has seen US$75 000 being channelled towards the construction of the reservoir.
Villagers along the border line usually drive their animals to the Botswana side for greener pastures and water. This illegal movement of animals had been identified as one of the major causes for the spread of transboundary diseases and cattle rustling.
On Wednesday, a delegation comprising officials from the Botswana and Zimbabwe veterinary services visited the site of the reservoir where two pumps have been installed at the confluence of Shashe and Tuli Rivers.
In an interview on the sidelines of the visit, Matabeleland South provincial veterinary services director Dr Enat Mdlongwa said: “We have mounted solar panels at Shashe-Tuli confluence so that we pump water further inland to reduce the number of animals that cross into Botswana in search for water.”
He said water tanks with a capacity to store 18 000 litres of water were mounted.
“We have set up one water point, but our target is to push up to 15 water points along the Shashe River which will stretch from Beitbridge up to Plumtree. The project started in 2021, but we discovered that we couldn’t commence it with the river in flood,” said Dr Mdlongwa.
He said plans are also underway to establish a fodder plantation at Patana Village in Gwanda.
Dr Mdlongwa said the fodder will bring relief to animals especially during the dry season.
He said by illegally driving their cattle into Botswana, the farmers are creating an opportunity for cattle rustlers.
“In addition to being a source of water, we want to transform these water points into green belts. The irrigation department is designing an irrigation scheme in Patana Village where we will grow fodder for animals,” said Dr Mdlongwa.
“Our vision of an upper middle-income society by 2030 is anchored on agriculture and as such, we can’t continue losing cattle in Botswana. This is why we are slowly building our water sources, irrigation schemes and bailing system so that we continue to grow our national herd.”
Dr Mdlongwa said the country has lost a lot of cattle that would have strayed into Botswana to cattle rustlers.
“Let’s not allow this issue of illegal movement of cattle to disturb the good relations that we have as a country with Botswana, which is an export zone,” he said.
“We shouldn’t put the Botswana export zone under threat by moving cattle that are coming from an undefined area.”
Dr Mdlongwa said over 500 cattle from Zimbabwe were destroyed in Botswana in 2020 after straying into the neighbouring country. He said Government has set up eight police bases along the border line to curb the illegal movement of cattle.
Botswana Veterinary Department director, Dr Jaone Sebina said the neighbouring country has erected a boundary fence to control stray animals from leaving either country.
He said some villagers were, however, vandalising the fence creating a path for animals.
Theft of livestock is a growing challenge for farmers along the Zimbabwe-Botswana border.
Last year, President Mnangagwa set up an inter-ministerial committee to tackle rampant cross-border cattle rustling along the Zimbabwe-Botswana border in response to concerns raised during the recent third session of the
Matabeleland South continues to record high cases of stock theft with areas like Tshanyaugwe Nhwali, Mlambaphele, Guyu, Manama, Mankonkoni Rustlers Gorge and Ngoma being identified among the hotspots for cattle rustlers.
The Department of Veterinary Services in Matabeleland South working in conjunction with their Botswana counterparts has rolled out a campaign to educate farmers living along the border areas about the danger of allowing their livestock to stray into the neighbouring country.
The campaign is also part of efforts to fight cases of stock theft.