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Livestock and livelihoods: a partnership approach

Goats and sheep are crucial for food and income (Andre van Rooyen)
Goats and sheep are crucial for food and income
Andre van Rooyen

Livestock and pensions provide the main source of livelihood for the farmers living around the Hoachanas settlement situated in the Kalahari Sandveld of Namibia. Small stock, such as goats and sheep, are crucial for food and income, with the area too dry for crop and feed production. But mortality of animals due to dry season feed shortages and poor animal health are a major constraint. However, an initiative to bring partners together to discuss and implement opportunities to improve production has stimulated a public-private partnership (PPP) to provide animal health services and inputs.

The initiative, supported by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), was set up in 2008, as part of a wider Livestock and Livelihoods (LILI) project*, to help facilitate discussions amongst relevant stakeholders to improve livestock markets in southern Africa. The approach, known as an Innovation Platform (IP), to bring partners together to identify bottlenecks and opportunities and collectively generate solutions is working in three countries, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

Generating solutions in Namibia

In Namibia, the livestock sector is better developed than in other regions, and the meat export sector significant. However, for smallscale farmers in Hoachanas, access to veterinary drugs and services is difficult with the nearest town of Mariental some 120km away. Even if farmers can get transport, drugs are not available for sale in small quantities and are therefore too costly for farmers to buy. Purchasing livestock feed in Mariental is also very expensive and producing forage is not feasible due to the low rainfall.

To overcome such difficulties, the establishment of a veterinary outlet in Hoachanas was proposed in the IP meetings facilitated by the Nambia National Farmers Union (NNFU). In 2009, AGRA, a commercial agricultural cooperative in Mariental agreed to sponsor the veterinary outlet as part of their Social Responsibility Outreach Programme but also with an intention that, as the outlet becomes self-sustaining, AGRA will develop a market amongst Hoachanas farmers.

In Namibia the meat export sector significant (NNFU)
In Namibia the meat export sector significant

The outlet is to be managed and hosted by the Guwiseb Farmers Cooperative, which has over 40 active members. Nominated farmers are to be trained as Community Animal Health Advisors (CAHAs) by a private vet supported by AGRA, who will also provide financial support for buying medicines and vaccines. Training is due to commence around April 2010. A fridge has also been donated by the IP research partners as this was identified as one of the critical requirements for running the outlet.

Facilitating partnerships

"It is really quite challenging to establish these types of public-private partnerships," says Sabine Homann-Kee Tui of ICRISAT, "because generally these partners just do not get together." She acknowledges that there may be issues of mistrust or just not the opportunities to catalyse the formation of a partnership. However she continues, "Through the IP process, by facilitating partners to focus on how they can sort out the most pressurising problems in their environment, they come up with these types of public-private partnerships as a real solution to their needs."

The advantage with the continuous IP process is that any challenges faced in the establishment of the outlet can be brought back for discussion at future IP meetings for partners to help find solutions. For example, the meetings have also helped to raise awareness of the issue of rangeland management.

"It is a very political and challenging issue," says Homann-Kee Tui. "However, discussions have at least raised the awareness for collaboration between the farmers' association and the government. Any action may take time to materialise, but the intention has been expressed and there is a greater chance that through these forums, a solution will be found."

Emerging opportunities

Joint management committees are being formed to pool resources for better rangeland management (Andre van Rooyen)
Joint management committees are being formed to pool resources for better rangeland management
Andre van Rooyen

Bertus Kruger of the Agricultural Bank of Nambia's Emerging Commercial Farmer's Support Programme states that PPPs are emerging in other areas to deal with this issue. For instance, joint management committees are being formed on resettlement farms in order to pool resources for better rangeland management involving partners from both the public and private sector.

"There is a big interest and willingness from the private sector to get involved in order to expand their market amongst emerging farmers," says Kruger. "However, care should be taken that a dependency syndrome is not created and fostered for free supplies and inputs provided by the private sector." He adds that initiatives are being implemented across Namibia on emerging farms as well as in communal areas.

With positive uptake of the IP process across the three project countries, Andre van Rooyen, project leader is encouraged by the requests to promote the approach for other commodities (cereals) and contexts (Southern and West Africa). He points out that, "The process needs substantial facilitation and investment in markets, which will benefit not only those with large herds but also poor farmers who only sell when in dire need. Selling livestock for higher incomes stimulates greater investment in inputs and technologies, stimulating the development of the sector as well as other local economies."

*Livestock and Livelihoods (LILI): Improving market participation of smallscale livestock producers is funded by the EU and supported by SADC.

Date published: May 2010


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