SOUTH AFRICA – Farmers in the east of the country are being thrown a farming lifeline through a regional Nguni cattle loan programme.
The initiative is part of the ‘back to the kraal’ programme started in 2011 by the Mpumalanga Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Administration Department which sees farmers loaned Nguni breeding stock for a maximum of four years to reinvigorate existing farms or start new enterprises.
The intention the Industrial Development Corporation and Limpopo University - both partnered in the project - is to empower rural people in strengthening food security and addressing a shortage of breeding stock in the province.
Local department official Violet Siwela has already handed 30 pregnant heifers to farmers in the township of Machadodorop which lies east of Johannasberg.
She hopes farmers prosper in order to eventually return the loan, and she said: “I am happy that the cattle have already started to reproduce, as I can see 19 calves.
“I ask all farmers to take good care of the cattle so that they can continue to multiply.”
Successful herd buildings is key because, as Siwela has told villagers, cattle are not cars, they should appreciate over time. Furthermore, this allows the loans to be paid off.
A hybrid of indigenous and Indian cattle, Nguni is a medium sized tribe-farmed animal adapted to grazing the plains of South Africa.
The breed is noted for fertility and disease resistance.
For many villagers, the chance to farm cattle is a dream come true, according to project chairman, Theo Ngemtu.
"I have always seen myself as a livestock farmer. When I was a boy, I enjoyed being a herd boy and today I am very thankful that we are part of this programme.
“We can assure the department that next time when they visit us; there will be no space in the kraal because the cattle would have multiplied.”
Farmer wishing to participate require at between 150 and 350 hectares of land. Small livestock loans have to be paid off in three years - larger loans have five years.
As well as the cattle, skills and tutorials are available to help farmers use natural resources efficiently.
Mr Ngemtu concluded: “We strongly believe that with the support that they receive from veterinarians and other role players, the farmers will achieve their dream of becoming commercial farmers.”
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