In Shurugwi, Midlands, 67-year-old Rosemary Phebeni, made her mark on local history by becoming the first woman to be elected chairperson of Takawira Dairy Association after 15 years of male leadership since the institution’s inception. Similarly, 25-year-old female Rudo Madhoyo clinched the second-most powerful post in a livestock production and marketing committee in Chipinge, Manicaland, in a community where livestock farming was regarded as a preserve for men.
Both feats occurred after these smallholder farming communities received a series of trainings on gender and women’s empowerment from the Feed the Future Zimbabwe Livestock Development program.
The program, which began in June 2015 and will end in June 2020, is working with 3,000 beef and 2,000 dairy producers across Manicaland, Midlands, and Matabeleland North and South provinces to reduce rural poverty and increase incomes through livestock production. In its approach, the program is promoting gender equity and social inclusion of women and youth in all livestock activities.
“I am very happy that I have become the first woman to take the position of the chairperson,” said Phebeni. “I will work hard to prove to all that women can take leadership positions and perform as well as our male counterparts.”
Program trainings on the importance of affording both men and women equal opportunities in the cattle value chain are enabling an attitude and mindset shift in smallholder communities. Phebeni and Madhoyo’s appointments reinforce that women can also lead in livestock production.
Madhoyo has been a proven leader in her community. After successfully marketing her young cull ox for $275, Madhoyo worked hard to educate fellow villagers on the benefits of selling cattle directly to abattoirs compared to the traditional system where farmers sell to small-scale consolidators for as low as $100 per animal.
Likewise, as a show of commitment to lead by example, Phebeni purchased three Red Dane-Tuli in-calf heifers worth $3,900. A week afterward, one of the heifers dropped a female calf, increasing Phebeni’s income from milk production. She is set to increase from the two liters per day she previously yielded from her indigenous breeds, as the new breeds can produce 12 liters per day per cow on average.
Although male dominance remains high in livestock production, the Feed the Future Zimbabwe Livestock Development program is creating opportunities for more equitable participation of women and youth. The program is working to ensure that 50 percent of leadership positions will be occupied by women by 2020. To date, 39 percent of leadership positions are occupied by women.