by PATRICK CHITONGO
CHIREDZI, (Lowveld Post) – CATTLE farmers in Zimbabwe’s drought-prone regions have been urged to feed their livestock a locally-available tuber plant, known as Zhombwe (Neorautanenia branaypus (Harms) during the impending drought.
Scientific tests made on the plant by the Department of Research at Chinhoyi University of Technology in Mashonaland West province shows that the tuber plant has medicinal properties that can help to sustain animals in areas where there is shortage of pasture grass.
A single tuber weighs between 15kgs and 45 kgs, average enough to feed two beasts per day.
The plant- with its purple flowers and pods – is proven to kill internal parasites like Helminths (worms) and other types of intestinal worms.
The tuber, which contains water, energy and fat, also heals open wounds.
Dr John Mawadze, an independent animal health specialist, has encouraged cattle farmers, particularly in the Lowveld, to embrace the tuber plant and avoid loss of livestock.
“The plant must be considered as a double portion to farmers. It can kill all intestinal worms and farmers benefit a lot from spending a lot of money buying animal drugs,” Mawadze said.
He encouraged cattle farmers in drought-prone areas, especially in the drought prone districts of Chiredzi, Chivi, Beitbridge and Mwenezi to commercialise this plant by growing it in their fields.
“The plant can grow in most soils but can do more in loam soils that characterise the Lowveld. The plant can survive in semi arid lands. This plant is a God given plant to all cattle farmers in drought-prone areas,” Mawadze said.
Currently, about 60 percent of cattle farmers in the Lowveld use the plant. According to surveys, 14,5 percent use alternative means like rented pastures or pen fattening. Some 26 percent of the farmers expressed ignorance of the plant.
A local subsistence cattle farmer discovered the plant in the southeastern Lowveld during the drought period between 1991 and 1995. Then, Zimbabwe experienced one of its worst droughts in history.
It was initially thought the tuber was poisonous but the farmer’s cattle did not die upon eating it but survived the drought.
Last week, the Zimbabwe Meteorological Department issued a statement to the effect that the country’s rainy season was over.
It is a clear indication of a looming drought, particularly in the Lowveld where there was minimal rainfall this year.
Local farmers have already lost 700 cattle due to shortages of pastures owing to poor rainfall.