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Transforming livestock markets in Zimbabwe

In Guruve district in northern Zimbabwe, a Participatory Market System Development (PMSD) approach is transforming the livelihoods of marginalised livestock farmers. 

In 2005, local farmers, buyers, suppliers of inputs and services, community-based organisations, and relevant government departments were brought together in a series of participatory market mapping workshops, to identify key opportunities and constraints in the livestock market chain. 

Farmers participated in the process through ‘Market Opportunity Groups’, which continue to meet on a quarterly basis. These groups are made up of four or five lead farmers who represent other farmers at regular meetings with buyers to negotiate prices and discuss livestock purchasing logistics. This increased collaboration has led to developments benefiting both farmers and buyers, such as pre-arranged market days.

Linkages were established with two agribusiness companies - a supplier of seeds for fodder and cattle feed, and a veterinary drugs firm.  The latter worked closely with the government’s Department of Livestock Production and Development to train 800 lead farmers to qualify as paravets.  These community-based vets, who each serve around 20 farmers, ensure that services reach poor farmers who would otherwise be unable to access drugs, training and advice.

Including lead farmers and paravets in the market chain has been an effective solution to the problem of improving access to livestock healthcare, which has brought mutual benefits to all: farmers have seen improvements in incomes by producing healthier cattle; buyers are able to access a higher quality product; paravets have increased status, role and incomes; and the drugs company has developed its market for drugs and healthcare training. 

Joint action plans aimed at tackling blockages in the system have been drawn up by stakeholders involved in the market mapping workshops, and are being taken forward by an Interest Forum consisting of farmers, buyers, policy makers and paravets, which is facilitated by the Lower Guruve Development Association. 

Transforming relationships is key in the pursuit of more efficient market chains that benefit the poor.  The PMSD approach has been instrumental in creating an environment of trust and optimism among participants.  A main driver in the process was the buyers’ early commitment to pay more for larger, healthier animals. 

As a result of this approach, cattle prices increased by at least 8% in real terms between 2005 and 2008, leading to improved incomes for 20,000 livestock farmers and their families – over 100,000 people in total. In addition, the prevalence of livestock disease reduced by 20%, and the number of cattle being sold for slaughter doubled during the same period.  This approach is now being replicated in four other districts in Zimbabwe’s Mashonaland Central Province. 

For more information, please contact Practical Action (

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