Nearly 700 million of the world's poorest people rely on livestock for their survival. Right now, the widespread loss of animals through disease devastates the lives of individuals, families and communities around the world. In spite of the crucial link between animal health and human health, between livestock and livelihood, only 4% of international aid is directed to agricultural needs in developing countries (GALVmed)
Livestock Support for Farmers
Mdukatshani supports sustainable land use with African farmers in the Weenen/Msinga area of the Tugela Valley. In 1994/95 this area was selected as the site of KwaZulu Natal’s pilot land reform program because it offered so many options on land use. Msinga was one of the most traditional rural areas in the province, while Weenen was an area of white owned labour tenant farms. Between the extremes of communal land use and private ownership lay a range of possibilities that are still being worked out today as communities feel their way into a new world. Mdukatshani has been working with these groups for the past twenty years, providing back-up through the long years of negotiation to acquire land, and now supporting new farmers in efforts to make a living from the land. We work with farmers on chickens, goats and cattle we have page for each of these where we share our work, research findings and techniques. these are here click on the type of livestock to be directed there.
The Tugela Valley is an arid area with erratic rainfall, marginal for crop farming, where most farmers are livestock owners, trying to survive with chicken, goats and cattle. Mdukatshani works to support the livelihoods of these farmers. Culturally chickens are womens’ animals, goats are owned by men and women, and cattle are owned by men, so our field staff with work with all these groups. Because of migrant labour and now Aids, men are often absent from the home and although young people do not own livestock they are the ones who herd and look after the animals on a daily basis. For this reason Mdukatshani is working closely with young people, boys and girls, providing support, background and education. Our secondary clients are the Department of Agriculture with whom we work closely, helping their field staff with methodology and field tested options. We have jointly produced a handbook on animal health for training departmental staff and rural farmers, and we have jointly produced a goat weight band for the use of rural goat owners. The collaboration is working towards a point where the Department can eventually scale up our successful interventions.
We work through participatory farmer research, participatory innovation development and action research to solve farmers’ particular problems and also pilot good practice models that we can then scale up with state institutions.
We meet farmers in groups monthly or bi monthly. At these meetings we also discuss and plan interventions for other issues affecting their livestock (other diseases, predators, marketing etc) where farmers are successful in these interventions we have farmers’ days and cross visits to share and expand these examples. We also link with the departmental and commercial experts for problems. For example 'indigenous' village chickens are kept in most African homes but are vulnerable to regular outbreaks of Newcastle disease which keep the numbers low and affects their laying ability if they survive. We work with more than 400 women in 21 groups on a bi monthly vaccinations program.
We work with out of school youth in a program aimed at job and wealth creation. We are training volunteers and young people proposed by the farmers to learn basic animal health with the longer term view of having a para-vet at every dip tank who will be able to assist farmers in keeping their livestock healthy. We also work with youth on creating marketing opportunities. One intervention is to collect stover bean hay and sweet clover that grows locally and dry it to sell to farmers in the winter months for pregnant animals as well as ones that are feeding young. Another is for youth to build and sell chicken nests that assist farmers preserve eggs and thus get production from their chickens.
In 2009 Mdukatshani launched an Animal Health curriculum for Grade 5 learners in two local schools. This year the programme was has been extended to a third school. Child participation specialist, Deborah Ewing, designed the course of 25 lessons, which include a storybook, worksheets and lesson plans, providing a fun, interactive course in basic animal healthcare. The courses are taught by local teachers at the schools, who are supported by Mdukatshani trained field staff.