A livestock production systems study amongst resource-poor livestock owners in the Vhembe District of Limpopo Province
Nthakheni, Nkhangweni David
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Livestock farming practices amongst smallholder black farmers are invariably described and characterised to make various conclusions and predictions. A desire emerged in me to conduct a study and to learn and develop an understanding about livestock production systems with the intention of formulating intervention initiatives. The first encounter with farmers of the study area was not easy, it was during the time when government withdrew from assisting stock farmers with dip chemicals and encouraging them to form dip-tank committees and buy dip with their own money. As a Government official I had to make a contribution in explaining the reasons behind the decision. Being their neighbour, being in a similar situation and also keeping a few heads of cattle myself, helped them to notice that they are not alone. There were however hard liners whom I managed to convince that, when the study commenced, they assisted with the logistics of access to the study area. Other arrangements were facilitated by the officials of the Department of Agriculture, traditional leaders and community based organisations who gave permission for the study to be conducted. Another problem was the difficulty of studying whilst simultaneously being an employee and manning various responsibilities. There were times when I felt that the pressure was unbearable and had to cope with the stress associated with work and study fatigue. This thesis is about the study conducted amongst smallholder livestock owners. Livestock farming systems amongst resource-poor farmers is more complex than we imagine. I have been confused and embarrassed at my limited understanding. Now I am proud of the times when I wrestled with the difficulties to gather knowledge. By having the humility to admit that I have little knowledge and being confused, I was spurred on even if it was like groping in the darkness.