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Options for sustainable small-scale sheep production in semi-arid and arid regions of the Western Cape, South Africa - Bernou van der Wiel

Sheep production is suitable for the harsh climatic conditions in South Africa. Moreover, it has the potential of redressing the inequality in the country. The aim of this study is to assess the sustainability of - and determine options for production improvement of smallholder sheep farming in the Western Cape province of South Africa.

The global human population is increasing, a growth of 1 billion is expected in Africa. A larger supply of food is required, especially animal source products due to the changing diets. Sheep production is suitable for the harsh climatic conditions in South Africa. Moreover, it has the potential of redressing the inequality in the country. The aim of this study is to assess the sustainability of - and determine options for production improvement of smallholder sheep farming in the Western Cape province of South Africa. For the present study 16 farms with sheep were enrolled: 6 smallholder communal farmers in the semi-arid West Coast, 6 smallholder farmers involved with land reform in the arid Karoo and 4 commercial farms from both regions. On-farm interviews were conducted utilizing a questionnaire with multiple choice questions. Statistical analysis was performed with SPSS (version 23).

The commercial farms were more productive, more efficient with land and labour resources and more able to support the farmers’ livelihoods. Productivity per sheep did not differ between regions or between farming systems. The variation in productivity observed across farming systems is caused by differing management methods. Crop cultivation for supplementary feeding (p=0.023), housing lambing ewes close to the homestead instead of in a small camp (p=0.023) and tracking farm data (p=0.033) positively affected profit generated per sheep.

Moreover, the smallholder sheep farmers experienced constraints that decreased their productivity. The most pressing constraint for communal farmers in the semi-arid region was a lack of feed and for land reform farmers in the arid region it was predation. The most promising options to overcome a lack of feed are re-establishing the equilibrium of the veldt and improving the present vegetation. To decrease the losses due to predation the most suitable options are adjusting the lambing season to predator behaviour and selectively using camps. Smallholder farming and commercial farming are vastly different with regard to farm productivity. However, improvement in farm productivity of the smallholder farms can take place with system adaptations.

Student: BZ van der Wiel

Supervisor: dr ir S Oosting

36 Ects