Tshabeni Mangwana began his farming career as a communal farmer back in 1958 in the Herschel district of the former Transkei. After acquiring a farm in 2002 through the Eastern Cape Land Affairs’ flagship LRAD programme, he started successfully marketing quality livestock to the former homelands and proved sceptics wrong. Mike Burgess reports.
Being the only boy in the Mangwana family, Tshabeni was from an early age exposed to the challenges his father faced as a communal farmer in the Herschel district of the former Transkei. His interest in stock farming, fuelled by his childhood experiences, eventually resulted in him acquiring his own stock in 1958, and the launch of his own farming career. But it was not easy in those early days of communal farming. “Stock theft was very bad, specifically across the Lesotho border,” he says. He recalls one day when 33 of his cattle were stolen and he tracked them down deep in Lesotho, managing to recover 25. Another major challenge with communal farming, he says, was the inability to increase the number of his stock due to a lack of grazing in the communal areas. “There was just too little space for everybody,” he says. By the mid 1990s, however, political change had allowed for exciting access to land and associated new opportunities for black farmers in SA, and by 2000 the Department of Land Affairs, having recognised the challenges of group settlements – through the Settlement and Acquisition Grants system – encouraged individual settlement. Mangwana, himself adamant to farm independently, then took charge of a 1 300ha farm near Lady Grey in 2002 thanks to the Department of Land Affairs’ Redistribution for Agricultural Development (LRAD) programme. Since then he has emerged as one of the more successful emerging farmers in the Eastern Cape, winning numerous awards including the National Emergent Red Meat Producers Organisation’s (Nerpo) Farmer of the Year Award in 2006. According to many Mangwana embodies a new successful breed of black farmer. belongs to the National African Farmers Union, Nerpo and the Wool Growers Organisation (NWGA), while holding executive positions in the Eastern Cape Emergent Red Meat Producers (ECERPO) and the local Ukhahlamba Wool Growers Association. T oday he runs about 500 Dohne Merino x Merino ewes, 250 indigenous ewe goats and 80 Nguni-type breeding cows, and is searching for more land to reduce the increasing grazing pressure on his farm. Independent communal farmer Farming independently has allowed Mangwana to escape a number of pitfalls of communal farming. For the past few years he has been freed of communal grazing demands and the chronic stock theft of the former homelands, while still benefiting from the agriculture department’s Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme – implemented in the Eastern Cape via the Eastern Cape Department of Agriculture (ECDA). Improved fencing, provided by the ECDA, has allowed Mangwana to structure and plan breeding seasons and control diseases such as sheep scab, while his inoculation and dipping regimes are partly funded by the ECDA – including products such as Intervet’s Blanthrax (for the immunisation against black quarter and anthrax) and Ecomectin antiparasitic remedy for cattle and sheep from ECO animal health. Furthermore, in 2002 Mangwana began farming with the dual-purpose Dohne Merino, but has since 2004 crossed his Dohne Merino ewes with Merino rams, obtained via the ECDA-funded NWGA ram breeding project. Fourteen of these rams have now helped his flock produce more and increasingly better-quality wool. “The rams have been a success. They are good-quality rams that have allowed for the increased production of quality wool,” he says. To illustrate this, last year he produced 24 bales of wool, six more than in 2005, and this year he expects 30 bales that will be collected and marketed by the NWGA. He explains that Merinos have proved suitable for the trade in live sheep (being smaller framed and therefore cheaper for customers) and are augmented by significant sales from his hardy indigenous goats that graze the steep Witteberge Mountains on his farm. Theft from the “two-legged jackal” (thieves) and dogs from the nearby township is an increasing problem, but regular patrols on the farm by his four sons make such management challenges easier. Smallstock losses due to predators, such as the black-backed jackal and the caracal are particularly problematic during lambing, but are managed by hunting with dogs. Mangwana splits his flocks of sheep and goats to lamb and kid twice a year – in autumn and again in spring – and is proud of an approximately 120% lambing and kidding percentage among his sheep and goats. When in lamb, the sheep feed on about 30ha of oats which supports as much stock as possible through winter along with acquired lucerne bales. Water is obtained from a number of boreholes and dams, and to conserve water he permits the company Sunray Timber to remove large poplar tree groves on his land. Local is lekker His choice of cattle is the indigenous Nguni. He is currently using Nguni bulls to ensure the transition of his herd from Nguni-type to pure Ngunis. “I like Ngunis as they are hardy. In droughts they do not need much feed. You put them on the veld and they can survive – such a breed saves you money,” he explains. In winter his cattle get a protein lick and in summer they survive off the veld. His calving percentage is over 90%, a reality – along with his impressive lambing and kidding percentages – he believes is partly linked to his use of Multimin + Se from Virbac Animal Health. “Six weeks before mating goats, sheep and cattle I use Multimin. It seems to give them the boost they need,” he says. Embracing traditional markets Mangwana has stopped selling stock through any recognised formal agricultural structures. “I used to call Cape Mohair and Wool and other people, but now most of my marketing is done in the former Transkei and Ciskei,” he says. He argues that stock from emerging and communal farmers are not given a fair competitive opportunity despite quality. “You often don’t get the prices you deserve. Emerging farmers’ stock as well as communal farmers’ stock is not appreciated as much as commercial farmers’ stock,” he says. Besides that, he says, there is an incredible market for livestock – used in traditional festivals and rituals (See box: Livestock in traditional Xhosa festivals and rituals) – in the former Transkei and Ciskei, a trade he knows intimately having grown up there. “I get better prices in this market,” he says. “My marketing strategy is therefore to bring quality stock to the former homelands. I am not struggling to sell my stock,” he says. Part of the reason for this increased demand for smallstock has been fuelled by an increase in game farming and theft. These scenarios have played out against a backdrop of an increasing human population and the continual development of a financially powerful African middle class not willing to forget its roots, he explains. Quality stock is, however, also increasingly searched for by aspirant communal farmers. “Many communal farmers are in search of specifically young female sheep and cattle to farm with. I therefore sell most my smallstock as young ewes, hamels or kapaters (castrated goats), and cattle as weaner heifers and oxen,” he explains. All culled stock is also sold to this market at discount prices. For more information contact Tshabeni Mangwana on 083 510 3800. |fw
Livestock in traditional Xhosa festivals and rituals
Cattle, sheep and goats are not only sought after as a source of protein among Xhosa people, but also form part of the very fabric of their culture. Complex traditional festivals and rituals result in the changing of hands and sale of substantial amounts of stock. These traditional practices include the collecting of bridal wealth in the form of cattle, also known as lobola, can vary from a few to hundreds of cattle. The transition of initiates or abakwethas from boyhood to manhood (normally demands sheep and a goat), intonjane which is the transition of girls to womanhood (demands a sheep or goat, and heifer), imbeleko which is the celebration of a child’s birth (demands sheep, goats or cattle), various sacrifices to the izinyanya, or ancestors (demands cattle), itheko which includes general festivities including house-warming (demands sheep or cattle), umgcwabo or funerals (demand sheep or cattle), and igqiras (traditional healers) use goats during their work.