Tailor-made training courses developed by the Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation help to improve the organisation of communal livestock farmers in South Africa and allow them to tap into a potentially large market for red meat in the country. This benefits the farmers as well as the biodiversity of important South African landscapes.
Beautiful South African landscapes like the Mzimvubu Catchment in Eastern Cape, the Namakwa District north of Cape Town and the Kruger to Canyons Biosphere Reserve Region encompassing the Kruger National Park are home to many small-scale communal farmers who herd cattle, goats and sheep. Farmers on communal lands own nearly half the country's livestock; however, only five percent of the formal red meat market comes from these subsistence or small-scale farmers. Demand for red meat is high in South Africa and there is much potential for communal farmers to increase sales of their natural red meat to wholesale red meat markets.
The main constraint to unleashing this potential is the limited knowledge of sound farmer organisation and capacity among farmers to engage meaningfully with wholesale traders. Conservation South Africa (CSA), a large NGO geared towards nature conservation, aims to fill the void by improving farmer organisation and governance by establishing a social enterprise called Meat Naturally Pty. The social enterprise, which was recently established, will provide training courses on how to herd cattle sustainably; for example, by rotational grazing that results in higher quality meat, and by restoring biodiversity. Meat Naturally will also bring mobile abattoirs to farmers, encourage local farmers to access veterinary services and organise local auctions to facilitate business between farmers and wholesale traders. Farmers will become shareholders of Meat Naturally Pty in the future.
Adapted training course
The Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation together with the CSA has developed a tailor-made training (TMT) project to locally train the trainers of Conservation South Africa and Meat Naturally, including select farmer organisation leaders. Three training events were held that were adapted over the course of the year based on the needs of the CSA and the participating farmer organisation representatives. Tensions between farmers regarding land use and planned rotational grazing appeared to be a major issue, for example, and received more focus. In addition, to do justice to the unique nuances of each of the three landscapes, three separate training courses were held in the three landscapes (as opposed to the original idea of offering one collective course for all three landscapes). "Being able to design the training courses around the needs of the requesting organisation before and during the project, is one of the great advantages of a tailor-made training," says Judith Jacobs of the WCDI, who also served as coordinator of the TMT project. When aiming at increasing the capacity of an organisation, a tailor-made training clearly brings more impact than a conventional one-off training, Jacobs believes.
"CSA is now continuously supporting farmers' organisations," says Jacobs when asked how the training project benefitted the organisation and the farmers. "In addition, Meat Naturally and the farmers' organisations now have context-specific roles that take into account the unique features and dynamics of each landscape." In the Namakwa district, farmer' organisation representatives realised how these organisations can take collective action against water scarcity. In the Mzimvubu Catchment, where farmers' organisations are more developed, weighing meat more fairly in local auctions was addressed. "What's important is that the CSA and Meat Naturally based their organisation around the potential benefits for farmers, instead of asking them to participate in a model built by others." This inclusive and consultative approach was shared and practiced with the leaders of farmers' organisations in the last set of landscape-specific training sessions, who shared it with other farmers.
One of the participants of the tailor-made training courses was Mkhatshwa Vanessa, who is a herd monitor in the village of Welverdiend. "I learned about business improvement and value chains," she says. "My understanding is that we need to work together so that our business can grow. I've learned that our co-operatives should collaborate with other businesses to buy for less in bulk."
The establishment of a successful social enterprise is still ongoing, Jacobs says, and it is a challenging process. "But clearly there is a better dialogue now on the issues that matter to all stakeholders," she concludes. The training course, which aims to support organisations in developing countries, was funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs through the Orange Knowledge Programme for Tailor-Made Trainings (TMTs) and managed by Nuffic.
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Visit the tailor-made trainings page from Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation.