Livestock herds in Tanzania: A bane or boon, pray?


IF the Statistics Fraternity is correct, Tanzania is home to the third-largest livestock herds in Africa, beaten in that line only by Ethiopia and Sudan. In Year-2016, the country boasted an estimated 25m herd of cattle – 98per cent of them indigenous breeds – 16.7m goats, 8m sheep and 2.4m pigs.

Ethiopia had the largest livestock population on the Continent- about 54m cattle, 25.5m sheep, and 24.06m goats in June 2014 – while Sudan-Khartoum boasted 38.4m cattle head, With South-Sudan having around 11.7m cattle, 12.4m goats, 12.1m sheep, hence Tanzania ‘beats’ bigger Economies like South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya in the livestock stakes.

That’s odd, especially considering the phenomenal value-chain opportunities associated with livestock keeping ranging from dairy products (milk, butter, cheese), hides and skins to meats, tusks, bones and hooves for making fertilisers, manure for cropfarming and biogas production!

One might very well ask why Tanzanians -whose country is so richly-endowed with livestock herds (never mind the bazillion other natural resources: minerals, natural gas) – are still wallowing in abject poverty more than half-acentury after ‘Independence’ from alien rule, complete with homegrown leaderships, policies and ‘socio-economic developmental programmes!’ Livestock-contribution to Tanzania’s gross domestic product (Year-2015 GDP: US$46bn at the official exchange rate) is still largely indeterminate.

But, Agriculture – including livestock – contributes around 26 percent of GDP, provides 85 percent of Tanzania’s goods exports – and 67-70 percent of jobs! []. By comparison, Tourism contributes around 17 percent of GDP – and is currently the largest forex earner.

It employs the largest number of Tanzanians after Agriculture, generating incomes for about 400,000 souls – and, oddly enough, contributing to rural development and the livelihoods of pastoralists and crop-farmers!

I’ve gone to such lengths here in an effort to contextualise these three productive and service sectors vis-a-vis each other in particular, and the Economy at large. This is especially because Agriculture, Livestock and Tourism are ‘mutually antagonistic’ on the ground!

I’ll explain and take for starters, the woes associated with livestock-keeping visa-vis crop-farming, wildlife nurturing – and even infrastructure ‘wellbeing!’ The woes started with pastoralists driving their herds onto crop farms, to graze upon otherwise thriving crop plants.

Then they went on to drive their herds onto lush land areas set aside as wildlife/ wildgame reserves, national parks, animal sanctuaries and natural forests... The latest reports are that pastoralists in western Tanzania are driving their herds along and across tarmac roads, thereby damaging this vital transport infrastructure constructed at great expense using donor funds and scarce foreign exchange reserves!

[See ‘Wananchi Watakiwa Kudhibiti Uharibifu wa Barabara (na makundi ya mifugo yanayopitishwa barabarani...)’ NIPASHE: March 18, 2017].

The 64,000-US-dollar question then arises: is livestock in Tanzania a bane or a boon, pray? Conflicts and confrontations between livestockherders and crop-farmers, as well as herders and forestry/ wildlife authorities, are common in Tanzania, resulting in tragic deaths and all-round destruction.

Well-armed, hostile herders clash with poorly-armed, humble farmers – with the former grazing their beasts on farm-crops even as the latter seek to prevent that! Ditto for herders versus Foresters and Gamekeepers at the nation’s Wildlife Parks, Reserves and Forestries...

In any case, the results cannot be good/positive every which way you look at it! Conflicts over resource competition and land use are exacerbated partly by growing livestock numbers, and partly by the relevant authorities failing to effectively implement well-intentioned policies, legislation and programmes.

These include – but aren’t limited to – the Tanzania Livestock Modernisation Initiative (TLMI) so-flamboyantly launched by President Jakaya Kikwete in July 2015.

The Intitiative ‘is intended to support the progressive and adaptive development of a vibrant livestock sector which is responsive to growing demands and emerging commercial opportunities – and which is economically, socially and environmentally sustainable...’

Boy! Other ‘Initiatives’ are the 2006 National Livestock Policy (NLP); regular National Five-Year Development Plans; the Agricultural Sector Development Programme (ASDP); the Kilimo Kwanza Initiative; the National Strategy for Growth & Poverty Reduction (NSGRP/MKUKUTA), the Rural Development Strategy (RDS), the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP); Tanzanian Resilient Pastoral Communities Initiative – and the Motherof-them-All: the National Development Vision-2025...!

Nowhere do these lofty strategies ‘allow’ the malpractice of livestock grazing on crop farms and/or wildlife and forest reserves; none at all! So, why’s the hydra-headed monstrosity’s rampancy seemingly endless, pray? Why, indeed?

Tanzania’s land base is made of 70 percent village land, 28 percent protected areas – including natural forests, national parks and wildlife reserves – and 2 percent urban or private land.

That leaves no alternative for livestock-keeping other that sharing the village land with crop farmers... Sheesh! It’s past high time that the Authorities revisited the Agriculture sector, with a view to making livestock-keeping fit in with the prevailing circumstances.

For starters, confers they could diligently prune the relatively-vast herds to manageable proportions in the context of ‘quality-rather-than-quantity’ – perhaps stressing the zero-grazing modality... Well? Cheers!

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