Capacitating small-scale farmers is cattle project’s purpose

Marelize Santana -- Thu, 11/09/2017 - 13:29

Capacitating small-scale farmers is cattle project’s purpose

A 10-year-old partnership between the North-West University (NWU), Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development is going strong, continuing to produce good results for small-scale farmers. Launched in 2007, the North West Nguni Cattle Development Project is the province’s contribution to the ongoing national drive to capacite small-scale farmers.

The project seeks to empower subsistence farmers with livestock farming skills and to develop their entrepreneurial aptitude. Unlike other breeds of cattle, this indigenous breed is known for its high fertility rate and ability to withstand harsh conditions and livestock diseases, making it well suited to the climate of the North West Province.

The success of the North West Nguni Cattle Development Project can be attributed to the wealth of expertise this partnership draws on based on many years of hands-on experience and research. Another success factor is the project's meticulous governance by a board of trustees representing all three partners and closely overseeing the running of the project and its relationships with beneficiaries.

How the project works
To be eligible for the project, would-be farmers must have fenced land with sufficient grazing, water and carrying capacity for at least 60 cattle. Once accepted the farmer receives a loan of 24 Nguni cattle, consisting of 23 heifers and one bull, all of which have already been immunised against tuberculosis and heart water. In addition, farmers receive a starter pack of medicines for calves.

The NWU and the Taung and Potchefstroom colleges of agriculture provide basic training in veld and beef cattle management, and the farmers are also taught about diseases such as tuberculosis, brucellosis and heart water.

The farmers are then given five years to grow the herd and during this time receive support from a full-time project manager.

After the five years, repayment is made to the board of trustees in the form of 12 young Nguni cattle (11 heifers and one bull). The board of trustees then redistributes the cattle to new beneficiaries. This ensures sustainability and empowerment of more and more upcoming farmers to become commercial farmers.

The project sites are visited regularly and the project manager, Andrew Mathe of the department, as well as extension officers and a technical team, support farmers. When calves are born, heifers are kept but steers sold at 18 months through feedlots and abattoirs.

In addition to the implementation success of the programme within local rural communities, the project has provided a conducive research platform for students studying toward a postgraduate qualification in Animal Health Sciences or allied studies.

“As a campus, we really pride ourselves on being associated with projects such as these because they reflect who we are and what we envision – to become a balanced teaching-learning, research and community development campus which includes rural development. Therefore, rural development is who we are and what we stand for,” said Professor Dan Kgwadi, NWU vice-chancellor at a recent research event.