Grazing management in the communal rangelands of the Upper Thukela, Kwazulu-Natal.
The grazing management project in the Okhombe ward of the Amazizi Tribal Authority formed part of the National Department of Agriculture's LandCare program to address communal natural resource management issues. Okhombe land is communal whereby every member of the community is the legal owner of the rangeland with individual ownership of stock with the chieftaincy playing a major role in land allocation. In order to avoid critics of the past and address the top-down approach of the past interventions, a participatory approach was conducted in the planning and implementation of the grazing system. The service providers held a series of visioning workshops with the community in an effort to better understand community resource use patterns, needs, constraints and opportunities as part of the participatory approach. Issues identified by the community were the need for fencing grazing camps, animal health improvement, subdivision of rangeland and crop fields and the development of a rotational grazing system. The main aims of this study were to develop a participatory grazing plan with the community, develop and support institutional structures governing range management, and build capacity of the community in range management. The effect of the current grazing system on species composition was determined. In addition to these, the project investigated the potential different fodder trees has on alleviating feed and nutritional deficit, particularly during the dry winter months of the Upper Thukela. Among the main achievements of this study was the development and strengthening of local institutional structures and effective liaison by all structures with the Inkosi and the tribal council. The community developed a rotational grazing plan, marked the camp boundaries, produced digital maps and successfully built fence boundaries (approximately 20 kms of fencing) to divide their land. The fence boundaries separated the crop fields and rangeland, closed ward boundaries in the upland to prevent access by cattle from neighbouring wards, and divided the land into three camps. Six crush pens were constructed in each subward of the Okhombe ward. A communal herders fund opened and fence construction improved crop yields due to a decrease in crop damage by cattle. Okhombe ward, located in the Highland Sourveld region of KwaZulu-Natal, experiences feed and nutrition deficits to ruminants during winter. The prevailing species composition in Okhombe was investigated as part of the grazing plan. The veld condition of the sites ranged from poor (40.7%) in the bottomland to an averaged of 47.0% in upland sites. The most distinctive feature of the rangeland in this area was the loss of highly palatable Decreaser grass species (P <0.05), such as Themeda triandra in the bottom slopes « 1300 m) when compared to the upland (> 1800 m). The proportional abundance of Decreaser species accounted for an averaged of 1.02% of the bottomland and an averaged of 11.5% of the upland compared to the values of 49% in the benchmark (grassland in optimal condition). The composition of the less palatable Increaser Il species was very high at all elevations (1200 m -80.7%, 1400 m - 75.8% and 1700 m - 55.7%) when compared to the low benchmark composition of 19%. The dominant grasses of the bottom slopes were Increaser Il species, such as Eragrostis curvula, Eragrostis plana and Sporobolus africanus and unpalatable Increaser III species such as Aristida junciformis. A significant difference (P < 0.05) in the composition of Decreaser, Increaser I and Increaser Il species was found between the bottom and slopes compared to the upland region. However, the grass cover formed by these tufted species was generally high, making it more resistant to physical degradation. The bottom slope ranged from reasonable to excellent cover (16.9%), the middle slope ranged from reasonable (15.9%) to a good cover of 18.1%, averaging 16.7% and a range of 16.1% to 17.9% for the upland plateau. In the agroforestry trial the potential of different fodder species for supplementing fodder was examined. Leucaena leucocephala had the potential of being a suitable fodder tree species for use in alley cropping (P < 0.05) compared to Morus alba and Acacia karroo. Results from the partially intercropped treatments showed that L. leucocephala yield (665 kg ha-I) varied significantly (P < 0.05) from the A. karroo (378 kg ha-I) and M alba yield (345 kg ha-I). Treatments that were fully intercropped varied, but no significant difference (P > 0.05) were recorded. Morus alba produced the least yield of 345 kg ha-I, A. karroo yielded 378 kg ha-1 and 1. leucocephala recorded the high of 664 kg ha-I. Results from the second season showed similar trend in that 1. leucocephala yielded a significant (P < 0.05) fodder production of 1715 kg ha-I in comparison to M. alba (1101 kg ha-I) and A karroo (1140 kg ha-I). M alba yielded the least dry matter production (P < 0.05) but had high potential (P < 0.05) for addressing lack of firewood in rural areas. Morus alba yielded high fuel wood production from both two seasons. There were no significant differences in fuel wood yield (P > 0.05) from the partially intercropped M alba (507.9 kg ha-I) and 1. leucocephala (455.0 kg ha-I) but the yield from both species varied significantly from the A. karroo yield (103.kg ha-I). With regard to fully intercropped plots, fuel wood yield from all tree species varied significantly, A karroo resulting in low yield (63 kg ha-I), 1. leucocephala recorded 243 kg ha-l and M alba the highest yield of 444 kg ha-I. In the second season, M. alba yielded an averaged fuel wood production of 728 kg ha-l and a low of 439 kg ha-I from 1. leucocephala. Acacia karroo, a slow growing indigenous tree, might be preferred by farmers due to its less branches resulting in minimal light competition with crops. Leucaena leucocephala tend to grow slowly in its initial establishment stage, but once roots become well established, it grows fast and produces high quantity of fodder. The effect all fodder trees had on crop yield was not negative during the trial period and further research on long term effects of alley cropping is recommended. The conclusions drawn here were based on tree growth and their likely impact in alley cropping. Leucaena leucocephala was also recommended as a preferred species for rural ruminants based on the forage quality study. The results showed high content of crude protein (19.27%), low NDF content (50.38%) and very low tannin content (1.19%) from 1. leucocephala compared to A. karroo with a high tannin content of 5.69%. Acacia karroo had a crude protein content of 13.60%, NDF percentages of 44.16 and 34.64% of ADF content. Morus alba also had a recommended chemical composition of 11.71% of CP, 42.86% of NDF, 36.96% of ADF and a low tannin content of 0.65%. L. leucocephala foliage proven is readily degradable under different diet ranging within 24 hrs of intake (P < 0.001) compared to other feeds. L. leucocephala had high dry matter loss degraded from the rumen under Eragrostis hay diet with poor nutrients to high protein concentrates diet. Under the Eragrostis hay diet for instance, L. leucocephala tend to degrade rapidly with values of dry matter loss ranging from 32.2% to 39% at 4 hrs to 16 hrs, when compared to low dry mater loss of 26% at 4 hrs to 31.33% at 16 hrs. Feeds such as M alba tend to degrade slowly within 24 hrs of intake and rapidly degrades after the stated period. The ep content of maize stover was very low ranging from 1.60% in maize stalks to 2.63% in maize leaves. The fibre content in maize stover was very high when compared to lower values in fodder samples. The NDF content ranged from 77.92% in maize leaves to 81.60% in maize stalks. Maize leaves when compared to a combination of maize leaves and maize stalks sole tend to degrade better within 24 hrs of intake. This was due to low (P < 0.05) degradability rate of maize stalks compared to a combination of maize stalks and leave and leaves sole and least NDF content in maize leaves might have attributed to these results. Due to poor chemical compositions of these roughage samples, the study recommended the establishment of fodder banks and agroforestry systems to curb the nutrients deficit during winter. In conclusion therefore, this study highlight that the sustainability of rural systems to manage communal grazing land should be further explored. Most of the challenging issues in communal range management are social in nature rather than technical concepts. These include ways of improving social contributions from cattle to the community while maintaining cultural values of the use of cattle. The interventions in communal range management by service providers should understand the institutional arrangements within a community and an attempt to strengthen such existing structures is recommended. Further interventions by service providers in Okhombe ward should bring in the planning discussions, experts from social sciences, to deal with understanding of community dynamics. Complexities in communal range management involve dealing with non-stock owners within project boundaries. Communities from neighbouring wards should not be ignored and ways of improving communications and updating project details to them should be formulated. Shortage of land and closing of ward boundaries to prevent access to land by neighbouring wards is among community complexities to be explored. Communities in rural lands do share land and in most cases boundaries are known but invisible by an outsider to identify. It is important to strengthen and maintain every success in communal lands as that may form core of the project. Successes on grazing management by locals is far from being the improvement in veld but there are rather various factors to the successes of grazing projects in rural areas. Examples of successes based on Okhombe project are reduction in stock theft, improved in relationship between community and locals institutions, a reduction in stock mortalities during winter and improved animal health. Veld improvement is among successes but there are accomplishments phases to fulfil before focusing on improvement of species composition.
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