Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats of the Livestock Subsector in Zambia

This is a follow-up to the News Diggers article published on 26th July, titled, “A welcome message for Prof Luo: Possible Holistic Strategy for Transforming the Livestock Sub-sector in Zambia”, in which I recommended the development of a five-year National Livestock Subsector Transformation Strategy. Those who wish to follow the article and contribute to this discourse can find it on this link (https://diggers.news/guest-diggers/2019/07/28/a-welcome-message-for-prof-luo-possible-holistic-strategy-for-transforming-the-livestock-sub-sector-in-zambia/). For us to develop a practical National Livestock Subsector Transformation Strategy, there is a need for stakeholders to understand the strengths; weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) of the Zambian livestock subsector in line with the internal and external Political, Economical, Social, Technological, Environmental and Legal (PESTEL) factors. In this week’s article, I will discuss some of the SWOTs of the Zambian livestock subsector, which I believe must be understood by all stakeholders in the livestock value chains if we were to transform the livestock subsector holistically.

SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Strengths and weaknesses are internal factors. Opportunities and threats are external factors. A strength is a positive internal factor. A weakness is a negative internal factor. An opportunity is a positive external factor. A threat is a negative external factor. The National Livestock Subsector Transformation Strategy should aim to turn our weaknesses into strengths and our threats into opportunities.

Analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) is used to provide an overview evaluation of factors requiring consideration when developing value-chain strategies. The essential part of this analysis is that while there is usually a long list of weaknesses and a shorter but equally serious list of threats, the weaknesses could largely be addressed in a short period while the threats could be mitigated to an acceptable degree. Let us start by discussing the strengths, then weakness, opportunities and finally the threats to the livestock subsector.

Strengths of the livestock subsector
The Zambian livestock subsector has the potential to grow owing to its inherent as well as potential strengths. By strengths, I mean the comparative advantages that the industry has, which include the following:

1. Zambia has a wide natural resource base with 58% of the land being arable and plenty of water that could increase the current stocking density. The country has three agro-ecological zones, which are all suitable for livestock production, with some still free from contagious cattle diseases such as East Coast Fever (Makungu and Mwacalimba, 2014). This comparative advantage could be leveraged on to ensure the transformation of the livestock subsector and make Zambia a significant producer and exporter of livestock in the region. Currently, Zambia’s livestock is mainly concentrated in four provinces, namely Southern, Western, Eastern and Central provinces (Sinkala et al., 2014).

2. Zambia has a relatively small human population, thus if livestock production increases, there could be more than enough livestock for the domestic market, and the surplus can be exported to regional markets.

3. Unlike many countries in the region and indeed Africa, Zambia is regarded to be politically stable. The country has never experienced any war or economically disruptive civil strikes since it became independent in 1964 (Hwedi, 2001). Political stability and support is an essential factor in sustainable investments in livestock production and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).

4. The existence of the School of Veterinary Medicine and School of Agricultural Sciences that contributes to the training of veterinarians and animal scientists are also a significant strength. Therefore, the country has adequate capacity to improve the delivery of animal healthcare and extension services, which can boost the livestock subsector. The schools and the relevant ministries and stakeholders can act as a driving engine for the transformation of the subsector.

5. Government policy direction demonstrated under the Seventh National Development Plan (SNDP) where agriculture, including fisheries and livestock, have been identified as investment priority areas to promote economic diversification (SNDP, 2017). This Government policy direction demonstrates political goodwill for investments in fisheries and livestock. However, this policy direction lacks a practical strategy on how to actualize it.

6. Zambia is also land-linked. It is surrounded by vast market potential, especially in DRC and Angola. Currently, Angola s importing over 97% of its beef supplies from Brazil and South Africa, an enormous market potential, which Zambia has not considered nor exploited.

Weaknesses of the livestock subsector

The weaknesses are vital issues that we could address to improve the livestock subsector. These include the following:

1. Grazing areas in Zambia fall under the common pool resource (CPR), which implies it is a property under the custody of traditional leaders, which makes private investment difficult. Internalizing the returns on public goods is impossible hence making productivity a challenge among traditional livestock farmers who own most of the livestock (Steinfeld et al., 2006).

2. The ever-high burden and the constant threat of trans-boundary animal diseases is one of the major hindrances to Zambia’s traditional cattle industry. The diseases include Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD), Contagious Bovine Pleuropneumonia (CBPP), and East Coast Fever (ECF) being the major ones. These diseases affect productivity directly through mortality and decreased production and indirectly through constrained trade and draught power. The diseases also cause regular shocks in the livestock supply chain on the local market through repeated trade restrictions associated with veterinary quarantine and animal movements restriction measures.

3. Lack of supportive infrastructure: Most of the traditional cattle farmers are in rural areas where they are not supported by good road infrastructure, which makes access to better markets and inputs challenging. Both farmers and their livestock have inadequate access to clean water supply and sanitation. Lack of access to slaughter/meat storage facilities (cold chain) and unstable electricity further weakens the livestock subsector’s growth potential (World Bank, 2011).

4. Weak value chain linkages, coordination, governance and lack of farmer cooperatives disadvantages traditional cattle farmers of their market bargaining power. It also gives them either limited or no access to affordable credit, which results in limited opportunity to improve production and value addition at group or farm level.

5. Weak and sometimes, total lack of enforcement of standards in small-scale slaughter facilities (Muma et al., 2014). There is mushrooming of small private slaughter facilities that have deplorable hygiene standards. Meat from such premises is sold at lower prices as it ends up into informal markets, which are not very attractive. The lower prices threaten market competition with large processors who observe acceptable minimum standards. Where parallel market channels exist, it becomes a challenge to regulate and upgrade food safety standards (Steinfeld et al., 2006).

6. Low farm productivity due to reliance on traditional methods of rearing livestock and inadequate delivery of extension and veterinary services makes the mechanization and commercialization of the livestock subsector a challenge.

7. Sociocultural practices such as keeping larger cattle numbers for prestige affects off-take rates. Holding onto inventory and offloading it onto the market at the same time due to similar financial needs affect livestock prices.

Opportunities of the livestock subsector
When looking at opportunities, the livestock subsector needs to assess its strengths and determine whether these open up any opportunities. Alternatively, the livestock subsector can look at its weaknesses and see whether they open up opportunities by eliminating the identified weaknesses. The following opportunities exist in the livestock industry:

1. An increase in local, regional and international demand for livestock due to shifting consumption patterns linked to population growth, urbanization and purchasing power (Thornton, 2010). The growing local and regional consumer base have increased market opportunities for livestock products. The famous Saudi Arabian goat and sheep market speaks to this point.

2. A growing market in the both the North-Western Province on the Zambian side and the Katanga province in the south of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) fuelled by increased mining activities offers opportunities for Zambian firms and farmers (Rasmussen et al., 2014). Another potential consumer market exists in South Kivu, also in the DRC, which is accessible through Mpulungu Port on Lake Tanganyika, where many traders are informally trading in livestock such as chicken, goats and eggs (Rasmussen et al., 2014). However, this can also be a threat because these markets are not regulated and hence can be a source of spread of diseases of national economic importance such as FMD and CBPP.

3. There is a fast-growing domestic market, through supermarkets catering to higher-income clients (Kaira et al., 2016). Zambia has seen a growth in supermarkets mostly through foreign direct investment (FDI) into shopping malls by companies mainly from South Africa (Louw, 2008). These supermarkets provide an opportunity to commercialize various livestock value chains and a platform for implementing food safety legislature.

4. Zambia enjoys dual membership to regional trade organizations: Southern African Development Community (SADC) and Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), which is a golden opportunity (Ng’andu, 2008). The ultimate aim of COMESA and SADC is to create a free trade zone, Customs Union and ultimately a common market for its members. However, Zambia has great potential to export its livestock to COMESA rather than to the SADC region, which is dominated by South Africa, Botswana and Namibia who are already exporting to international markets, such as the European Union (Thomson and Penrith 2011). Dual membership to regional markets is a significant opportunity as it provides market diversification for Zambia. i.e. SADC is politically stable, but with low volumes of trade due to market dominance by South Africa, on the other hand, COMESA is politically unstable but with potential for higher volumes of trade. Trade gains in the other can thus compensate losses in one regional market.

5. Subsidies and tax incentives provided to the agricultural sector, though more biased to crop production are an opportunity for growth and transformation of the livestock subsector if stakeholders can leverage on them.

Threats to the livestock subsector

The following issues threaten the Zambian livestock subsector:
1. Strong competition from regional and other foreign (Brazil) markets, particularly countries where the cost of livestock production is low and the Government provides support through tax concessions and other volume production advantages. The intense market competition from regional markets has increased the influx of cheap livestock and poultry products in the foreign-owned supermarkets. The Zambian livestock subsector has a comparative advantage but lacks a competitive advantage.

2. Possible natural disasters, including droughts, floods, impacts of other climate-related factors (Stringer et al., 2009) and trans-boundary and other infectious disease outbreaks. These are a significant threat to the livestock industry since the country cannot prevent these natural disasters from occurring, but rather mitigate their impact to acceptable levels. Trans-boundary and other infectious diseases have negatively affected livestock trade for a long time (Sinkala et al., 2014). Zambia cannot formally export livestock and cattle to other developed countries because of threats of FMD and CBPP (Muuka et al., 2012; Sinkala et al., 2014). Similarly, the current drought in some parts of Southern, Western, Central and Lusaka provinces has proven to be a threat to the livestock subsector.

3. Possible changes in socioeconomic factors such as human health concerns and cultural values in future is a source of threat to the future demand for livestock and livestock products (Thornton, 2010). Red meat has been associated with cases of cancer and lifestyle disease such as hypertension and gout. Livestock products have also been associated with rising cases of antimicrobial resistance due to unregulated use of antimicrobials in the livestock value chains.
4. Concerns about sustainability as big livestock such as cattle production are known to be the least sustainable species due to high water use, low feed conversion efficiency, environmental pollution, and high emissions (Nardone et al., 2010; Phillips and Sorensen, 1993) which has contributed to global warming.

In conclusion, the Zambian livestock subsector has great potential to grow, given that deliberate efforts are put in place to develop livestock policies that will make use of current strengths and opportunities and address the existing weaknesses. The Government and other stakeholders can efficiently address weaknesses by introducing road maps and policies that will produce a favorable environment, especially for primary producers. However, the Government has little control over some external threats occurring due to natural phenomenon such as drought. Mitigation measures in case of disasters can be put in place as a lack of preparedness is what has hindered disease control in Zambia (Muuka et al., 2012; Sinkala et al., 2014). The Government’s vision 2030 aim is to make Zambia, “a prosperous middle income country” (Zambia Vision 2030), but this will not be achieved if the country does not invest in utilizing the strengths and opportunities in the livestock subsector and address the weaknesses and threats as this is key in championing the export diversification agenda.

(The author is a Senior Lecturer of Livestock/Animal Health Economics at the University of Zambia, School of Veterinary Medicine. Email: cmumba@unza.zm, Mobile: +260977717258)

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