Rural smallholder farmers in the Eastern Cape Province, South Africa, have an incessant challenge of very low market off-take rates for their livestock. They are struggling to penetrate the formal market because their animals, especially cattle, are small and undernourished. They are located in the semi-arid climatic zone and depend on the rangelands for livestock production, unfortunately, the quality pastures are of inferior quality, especially during the dry season.
They are emerging (small-scale) farmers, and cannot afford commercial beef fattening feeds to finish off their animals in feedlots for the commercial market, hence they are excluded (and eliminated) from the South African beef value chain. The exclusion is also due to the grading system, which is based on commercial and exotic breeds.
My name is Tatenda Dezah. I am a 25-year-old Zimbabwean animal scientist, and I am offering a potential key to unlocking the less explored value of smallholder ruminant livestock sector, for food and nutrient security in rural South Africa.
Currently, I am pursuing a master’s degree in Animal Nutrition and Meat Science at Stellenbosch University. The goal of my project is to develop cost-effective ruminant feeding strategies from black wattle foliage: a highly invasive species in the country.
The current study of the black wattle foliage has revealed that it contains an appreciable amount crude protein, which can be very essential in fattening cattle before marketing. It also contains tannins, which, if included in moderation, protect the animal from internal parasitic infestation.
My project proposal is centred on registering the custom supplement with the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) and training smallholder farmers to make their own custom supplements.
The product will be branded and distributed to the smallholder farmers at very affordable price, as it is based on locally available local resources. Background work is already on course to show that the browse tree species can be used as a protein supplement.
The raw material, Acacia mearnsii commonly known as black wattle, is being destroyed by environment-conscious organizations like WWF because it is very invasive, hence the sustainability of the project is guaranteed until South Africa has the tree under control.
Communities in areas invaded by the black wattle are indiscriminately cutting down the species to clear land for agriculture and settlements, which will then be destroyed by fire, further polluting the environment thus increasing their carbon footprint.
From my perspective, I suggest utilizing the tree for or as a supplement to improve their undernourished animals.
What motivates me most is the socioeconomic status of the farmers.
These farmers are at the end of the social status class and face difficult challenges on a daily basis. Working with them during my field work has shown me that they are real people with real problems. They keep livestock as a wealth bank and dispose of it for cash in times emergency or an urgent need to be addressed monetarily. Their animals do not realize their potential value at the market as they are classified as ungraded.
Having worked with them, gave me motivation to assist these farmers as they lack relevant information on nutrition to improve the animals. The major beneficiaries of my project are the smallholder livestock rural farmers in South Africa, particularly the Eastern Cape Province, and in areas facing the same challenges beyond these borders. They will learn how to formulate custom supplements, through training workshops and field days, from locally available resources.
The project will also create employment for people living in proximity to the supplement processing site.
The first step towards realizing this goal will be to approach DAFF with an application for a product registration under the Act 36 of 1947. This process will cost about USD 200, and takes up to four months to obtain.
Whilst I am waiting for registration certificate, I will be addressing issues that have to do with the branding of my product, which include designing the packaging and logistics of getting the product to the farmers. This might cost USD 500.
During the same period, I will seek permission from the Department of Environmental Affairs to harvest the browse tree in the sites that have been identified. These also include stakeholders such as the local chiefs, local government and municipalities. Contacts have already been established during my field work, which will make it easy in the facilitating the process. Cooperation will also come from Stellenbosch University Launch Lab team.
After completion of the registration, other purchases for additional equipment (two chainsaws already available) will be done. These will be needed for harvesting and processing. The equipment include an additional chain saw, a pelletiser and a bag sealer.
The equipment will cost approximately USD 2,500, and advertising will cost USD 250. A capital of USD 1,000, to sustain the project in the first quarter of operations, will be sourced until the project is self-sustaining. This will cover consumables like fuel, oil, drying sheets, energy, transport of raw materials and other trivial expenses.
USD500 is also set aside for farmer training sessions, pamphlet printing, field days and so forth for capacity building.
The success of the project will be determined as products produced, and ultimately increased off-take rates in the smallholder communities in Eastern Cape.
Blogpost and picture submitted by Tatenda Dezah (Republic of South Africa): tatendadezah[at]gmail.com.
The content, structure and grammar are at the discretion of the author only.
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