Nguni cattle project is stampeding to success

SOUTH AFRICA - An Eastern Cape empowerment project initiated and developed by the University of Fort Hare that has already changed the lives of thousands of emerging farmers in the province, is now being successfully exported across the country.
calendar icon 13 February 2007
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The Nguni cattle project, aimed at empowering poor rural communities through indigenous livestock farming, has developed into one of Fort Hare‘s flagship projects, attracting donors from Norway and the United Kingdom.

The project has proven so successful that Professor Jan Raats, who initiated and has nurtured it for the past 12 years, is now looking at creating an international niche market for Nguni beef, with the export revenue generated funnelled directly back to local Nguni farming communities.

In terms of the model developed by Raats and his co-workers at Fort Hare, emerging farmers are given a set number of Nguni cattle – the only cattle breed developed in Africa.

“It works on the ‘pay it forward‘ system,” explains Raats, executive dean: faculty of science and agriculture.

“Communities that have been selected to participate are given a set number of cattle – in our case, it was initially 10 pregnant cows and two bulls – to allow them to build up a nucleus herd.

“After five years, they give back to the project five heifers and two bulls, which we then pass on to another community.” So the cycle continues, with each community paying the dividends of its original gift forward to another one.

Nguni cattle have a high fertility rate, with a short calving time and long reproductive life span. They are resistant to most parasites, and adapt easily to poor grazing conditions, excessive heat and humidity.

Raats says the sense of ownership that the Fort Hare project imparts has brought about other, unintended spin-off benefits. “One of the conditions of the project is that communities must implement vegetation and veld management. This has been attempted – unsuccessfully – for many years, but with this project we‘ve achieved great success.”

After an initial slow start when funding was virtually non-existent and donors remained unenthusiastic, the project has in recent years grown in leaps in bounds.

Source: The Herald Online
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