Factors influencing choices of grazing lands made by livestock keepers in Enhlanokhombe in Ukhahlamba (Drakensberg), KwaZulu-Natal.
Chonco, Johannes Mphumzeni.
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In South Africa, communal land still plays a significant role in the lives of many rural communities. While these communal lands have ostensibly been included within municipal frameworks, decisions about their utilisation still remains a practical reality for many livestock keepers. This research examined current herding and grazing practices, grazing areas being used in summer and winter, and factors taken into consideration by livestock keepers and herders when choosing grazing areas in the communal sub-ward of Okhombe, in the northern Drakensberg, KwaZulu-Natal. The aim of this research was to investigate the socio-cultural reasons of livestock keepers behind decision making about grazing areas. The primary research question pursued in the study was: How do livestock keepers select areas for livestock grazing in the sub-ward? Three sub-questions were developed to guide the research: What grazing and herding strategies are currently being used? Which areas are used for grazing, and in which season(s)? What are the considerations for choosing areas for livestock grazing? Data were collected from fifty-one (51) cattle keeping households in the sub-ward. Data were collected in five steps. The first two steps involved household and in-depth interviews using interview guides. The latter three steps involved a transect walks, one case study and focus group discussions to test and verify the data. The findings showed a wide range of livestock kept in Enhlanokhombe sub-ward. The majority (61%) of cattle keeping households had cattle and goats, which are important for ceremonial purposes. The primary reasons for keeping livestock involved agricultural, food and cultural purposes. The herding strategies found in the sub-ward involved family/relative member, hired herders and no herder, with the majority using family/relative members as herders. Three areas were used for livestock grazing were Maqoqa, Skidi and Mdlankomo. The key finding showed an increase in supplementary feeding, a decrease in traditional remedy usage and safety from theft as a new factor taken into consideration when selecting grazing land. Other factors involved presence of cropping fields, availability of grass and water, distance from home and family traditions. From these findings, one can conclude that there are clearly tensions between culture and changes in the society, culture and changes in economy; and livestock keepers' heritage and modern lifestyle. These tensions make livestock keepers' decision making processes harder. The grazing and herding strategies, and the choices of communal grazing areas are influenced by these changes. As a result, livestock keepers are shifting from their heritage and culture to being economic and adapting to modern world. The heritage and the clarity of gender roles are breaking down. Grazing and herding are, therefore, no longer simple and familiar, but complex and unfamiliar to livestock keepers. These findings have serious implications for extension, advisory and development approaches used when addressing livestock management among traditional livestock keepers. They imply that what is needed is a multi-dimensional and inclusive view of the livestock keepers' practices. Rather than relying on the long-held assumptions about livestock keepers, serious attention must be given to the tensions in communal livestock keeping and the complexity of communal grazing strategies. These must be deliberately and consciously used to inform interventions designed to improve communal grazing management.
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