The GDSA Secretariat benchmarks successful South African communal rangeland stewardship and livelihoods improvement model

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Written by Tiego Mpho, Policy & Programme Manager at the GDSA

At the invitation of Conservation South Africa (CSA) and in preparation for its submission of a concept proposal to the Green Climate Fund (GCF), focusing on Climate Change Risk Reduction through ecosystem based adaptation in Botswana’s communal grazing lands, the GDSA Secretariat participated in a three-day learning exchange in Matatiele, South Africa from 16th to 18th May 2017.  

The exchange was hosted by uMzimvubu Catchment Partnership Programme (UCPP) which includes such organisations as Environmental & Rural Solutions (ERS), Maloti Drakensberg Transfrontier Programme (MDTP), Conservation SA (CSA) and Meat Naturally Pty (MNP). It aimed at showcasing a locally developed grassland restoration model which provides a framework for maintaining healthy communal landscapes and livelihoods through sound rangeland stewardship. Specifically, the focus was on sharing experiences and innovative ideas, from the uMzimvubu and other landscape projects, for potential use of the model in other communal catchments, in South Africa and similar ecosystems in Southern Africa.

Interactive presentations by implementing partners provided an overview of the approach, including the core sustainability concepts of the model which are:

  • Social mobilization and governance, as a foundation for sustainable range management by land users;
  • Technical elements of livestock and veld improvement, through the deployment of trained Eco-rangers, to provide husbandry support;
  • Conservation-based grazing agreements, based on incentives and compliance with agreed practical grazing plans (including sanctions);
  • The business and marketing entity, Meat Naturally Pty, which arranges mobile auctions and marketing opportunities.

Participants witnessed the market element in action at a Meat Naturally mobile auction at Thaba Chicha, Kwazulu Natal, adjacent to the Ongeluksnek Nature Reserve. Sellers (livestock owners) are signed up by Eco-rangers several weeks prior to the event. On the day of the event, their stock are weighed at a mobile kraal, allowing buyers and sellers to know the weight of each animal before bidding. Auctioneer Gerbrand Nel, the manager of Meat Naturally Pty, facilitated the bidding process in a colourful mixture of languages (Xhosa, English and Afrikaans) to suit sellers and buyers alike while an admin team from CSA and ERS processes seller information, weight, agreed price and animal details. Ecorangers manage the livestock process from arrival, movement through the sale kraals, and to the loading pens prior to removal on buyers’ transport. The auction sold 70 animals, generating R543 350 for 35 sellers, of which a third were women, with anverage price of  R15.62/kg. Translated into employment value,at fulltime minimum wage equivalent per annum, the auction turnover has created almost 185 jobs (in situ). This shows a most valuable direct livelihood benefit from improved rangeland management and market access.

Long hailed as an effective and adaptable sustainable land management and livelihoods improvement strategy, the Meat Naturally Pty approach as practiced in the uMzimvubu Catchment is also highly scalable especially within other GDSA member countries like Namibia, Botswana, Tanzania and Kenya wherein rangeland-based livestock production is still the dominant land use and most viable agribusiness for small resource poor farmers.