An evaluation of socio-economic and biophysical aspects of small-scale livestock systems based on a case study from Limpopo Province: Muduluni Village
Munyai, Fhumulani Rachel
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Small-scale livestock production systems are an inherent part of communal livestock farming in the Southern African region and require certain interventions and welldeveloped management systems to ensure long-term sustainability. To this end a better understanding of the biophysical and socio-economic features of communal farming communities can contribute to the planning and implementation of better focused agricultural development programmes in these areas. The present study presented a unique opportunity to study and compare two adjacent areas where mainly livestock farming has been practised for generations by, on the one hand, communal farmers who apply limited pasture management, and on the other, the Mara, which uses proven pasture management and rotational grazing, practices. This research presented an opportunity not only to compare livestock production systems but also to determine the impact of communal farming on plant composition and edible plant material production. The study elicited excitement and enthusiasm among local animal and pasture scientists, as well as social scientists, as the outcome of this study could impact directly on future small-scale livestock farming development. The objective of this study was twofold. The first objective was to evaluate the socioeconomic complexities of small-scale ruminant livestock production under communal farming conditions. To this end, fifty farmer households that share a communal grazing area were surveyed. Data analysis was performed using Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS). Most pertinent results of this study are the following: female animals make up the largest proportion of a herd; the majority of farmers sustain their livelihood from off-farm activity and farm for status not for profit; and farmers farm mainly with the Nguni breed owing to its adaptability to the environment. Given the socio-economic scenario, the second objective was to investigate the way socio-economic conditions impact on the natural feed resource base. Twelve fistulated Bonsmara steers were used. Rumen fistulated steers were used to determine the dry matter disappearance and ammonia concentration using nylon bag technique and the Oesophageal fistulated steers were used to determine the chemical composition. Data were analysed with the SAS Statistical package (2002- 2003) and the results indicated that there was no significant difference measured between the two sites in terms of ingested dry matter (DM) disappearance from the rumen and chemical composition of ingested material and ammonia production in the rumen and vegetational measurements were all significantly different between the two sites. The study concludes that differences in the grazing material available in terms of the two systems are a result of the quantity of the dry material available and not the quality. Moreover, livestock farming on its own is declining and is unable to provide sufficient financial returns for the survival of households. Households are consequently compelled to become involved in off-farm activities in order to generate enough income to sustain their livelihoods.
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