The Mozambique Institute of Agricultural Research (IIAM) has started domesticating wild buffaloes to provide draught power and milk to poor smallholder rural farmers.
A pioneer herd of 18 buffaloes, comprising 16 adults and 2 calves, is already undergoing training at the Estação Zootécnica de Chobela (EZC), a cattle management research unit affiliated to the IIAM. At least 8 more calves are expected to be born into the project in the course of 2018.
EZC head Avelino Nhate said the project seeks to breed buffaloes that can be used to provide cheaper to zero cost options to meet the draught power and nutritional requirements of smallholder rural farmers, who are often poor.
Nhate said buffalo milk would provide a nutritional booster among the communities as it is believed to be of higher nutritional quality than other livestock sources. The training module at Chobela uses techniques that are aimed at reducing the aggressive traits of the buffalo, which is largely feared for sensitivity and hostility to human presence and interaction.
Nhate said contrary to its aggressive reputation, a buffalo can be tamed and domesticated to the point of living with, and behaving like cattle.
The programme also seeks to harness the massive power of the buffalo and its ability to strive in wetlands to adapt it for use as draught power in muddy working environments, like rice farms, where cattle and tractor power cannot be used.
It could be years before the first domesticated buffaloes are released on a trial basis to selected farmers. However, Nhate said some communities in the Inhambane district have already taken the initiative and successfully tamed some buffaloes, which they are using to plough their fields.