Bergville auction a community first

This week, community members of the AmaZizi and AmaNgwane in the Upper Thukela region of KwaZulu-Natal held their first and successful communal livestock auction hosted by WILDLANDS in partnership with Meat Naturally Pty (MNP).

Meat Naturally Pty is a Conservation South Africa initiative that provides solutions which offer communal stock farmers improved returns as a reward for the implementation of improved grazing and land management efforts.

More than 70% sold

According to Conservation South Africa, livestock farming for meat production is the largest agricultural sector in South Africa, generating more than R6.7 billion each year, with commercial farmers supplying 95% of the red meat market in the country. Farmers on communal lands own 47% of the country’s livestock, but only 5% of the formal market comes from these smaller farming operations.

More than 100 community members gathered for the much anticipated auction near Bergville and it was truly a rewarding day as more than R600 000 changed hands. More than 70% of the cattle were auctioned successfully, with the highest selling for R11 500. These funds will be going directly to the farmers, which will in turn have a direct impact on the livelihoods of the community.

Rotational grazing

WILDLANDS Executive Director, Dr Roelie Kloppers commented, “The project incentivises communities to change traditional cattle farming systems to improve biodiversity in productive landscapes. Through a partnership with Meat Naturally, we can provide communities in the Mweni area of the Ukhahlamba-Drakensberg area with mobile cattle auctions that save them from incurring transport costs and high fees associated with traditional auctions. In exchange, local livestock associations have agreed to implement a rotational grazing system.”

It was a first-time experience for the community, and many cattle owners are hoping to gain much more in future.

Bergville Mweni communal cattle auction.

Sold to the highest bidder.
Pictures by Kirsten Oliver.

“I only brought one of my bulls here today as I needed to gauge the type of price I would get. We would like to see a higher rand value per kilogram but I am satisfied with what I got today,” commented a man identified only as Mr Hlongwane.

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Environmental Monitor, Daniel Hlongwane, commended the efforts to bring the auction to the community as he felt it opened the field to the local women farmers who previously could not attend and instead sent their male relatives or children. The role of the environmental monitors has been pivotal in forging this project as they advise the farmers on vital animal husbandry practices, veterinary and basic care.

“For the first time, I feel the auction went well and definitely had a positive impact on local farmers. They were very happy with the commission of 4%,” said Senzo Dunywa, WILDLANDS Lead Biodiversity Stewardship Facilitator.

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“Although some of the local farmers did not sell as they felt that the prices were lower than what they were hoping for, I’m certain that with improved land practices, the implementation of rotational grazing and community participation, the farmers will get more satisfactory prices for their cattle.”

Global Nature Fund Board member, Dr Andrew Venter, was really excited about the progress being made with this groundbreaking project. “Rural sustainability is key to the future conservation of Africa’s biodiversity and landscapes. This project demonstrates that it is possible to combine cattle farming, grassland conservation and livelihood development. A unique combination that has the potential to unlock rural landscape conservation efforts across Africa.”