An investigation into the waste management practices of emerging livestock farmers : the case of the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands.
Livestock waste management is a growing global concern in terms of its contribution to climate change, environmental sustainability and quality of animal products. In South Africa, poor waste management is a chronic problem, yet it has not been an area of concern for the government, with the agricultural sector receiving the least attention. In communal and rural areas, livestock provides food and livelihood security for poor emerging farmers (small-scale producers or the second economy), in addition to monetary benefits. However, the lack of waste management infrastructure, coupled with insufficient hygiene translates into a sanitation problem, which could result in environmental health impacts and compromise the sustainability of the sector. However, studies conducted in Africa and Asia indicate less pessimistic scenarios, where emerging farmers have turned waste into resources by drawing on indigenous knowledge systems such as improved animal husbandry techniques and nutrient use efficiency from animal wastes, among other strategies. With the emerging livestock sector poised to transition into commercialization in South Africa, these constraints and opportunities provide the need for this study. The aim of the thesis is to evaluate current waste management strategies used by emerging livestock farmers in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, where livestock farming is practiced. The study used both qualitative and quantitative methods of data collection. In terms of the former, key informant interviews were conducted with industry professionals, considered to be relevant stakeholders in the waste management cycle from prevention to disposal. In terms of the latter, a sample of 50 emerging farmers was randomly surveyed using a questionnaire, in an attempt to address the interconnectedness of livelihoods, socio-cultural, environmental, health, economic, and technical spheres, considered relevant to assessing waste management practices in developing countries such as South Africa. The objectives of the study were therefore to illicit information from the emerging livestock farmers in terms of waste management practices and environmental impacts; waste management technology needs; the knowledge network that is used in waste management practices; the contribution of the industry to local food security; and the role of policy in the sustainability of the sector. The study utilized the sustainable livelihoods approach as a theoretical framework to gauge how waste disposal, management and re-use impact poor people’s livelihoods. The key findings of the study indicate that cost and ease of implementation govern the waste management practices implemented by emerging livestock farmers. The rural regions of the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands are defined by vast distances in addition to a lack of municipal disposal services and waste authority. This has led to burning and illegal dumping of waste on vacant sites. In contrast, the results indicate that farmers would be open to best practices provided that there are resulting benefits. For example, many farmers implemented composting as a means of recycling with the intentions of producing manure to fertilize crops. The study recommends that farmers be educated on the effects of improper waste management to understand the consequential threat to their livelihood security. In addition, emerging farmers require support with the implementation of sustainable husbandry practices, land remediation, slaughter practices and market access before they are capable of implementing proper waste management practices.
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