Herding 4 Health
Team Africa Geographic
Herding 4 Health is a community development activity that promotes conservation outcomes while supporting people living in rural areas to find their way out of extreme poverty . It does this by teaching community members to make use of what they already have – cattle and other livestock .’ Peace Parks Foundation .
Livestock herding and wildlife conservation are often seen as anathema to each other . A combined Peace Parks and Conservation International initiative called Herding 4 Health ( H4H ) is changing these perceptions while improving livestock health and wealth for local people living on the fringes of protected areas . The programme is also restoring rangelands and increasing biodiversity .
Livestock and protected areas
Rural village landscapes are multifunctional and play a critical role in providing essential ecosystem services such as food production , grazing , rainwater absorption and carbon cycles .
In many parts of Africa , livestock animals are massively important to rural people . They provide milk , meat and a form of banking for people living on the borders of protected areas . Yet increasing numbers of livestock , grazing without coordination close to villages has caused extensive rangeland degradation which , in turn , has resulted in poor livestock health , decreased food security , and increased poverty .
Another problem community livestock owners face is access to markets for those who want to sell their animals . Livestock is generally in poor condition and live animals cannot be sold across veterinary cordons . Foot and Mouth disease is a major problem around many Southern African protected areas . The disease is carried by free-ranging buffalo , and cloven-hooved livestock is extremely susceptible to it .
Many of the problems can be put down to herds not being managed optimally . Historically , herds would have been looked after all day – drop and go herding did not happen . These days , kids go to school and modern life makes it very difficult for herds to be monitored full time , especially in areas that are not fenced ( a situation that brings its own set of problems ). As Mike Grover , Project Manager of the H4H programme in the Mnisi Tribal Authority ( Mnisi TA ) on the borders of the greater Kruger National Park says , ‘ Livestock is not a problem . Unmanaged livestock is a problem .’
An innovative solution
Jacques van Rooyen , Director of the Herding 4 Health Programme who developed the H4H model grew up on a cattle farm where he developed a love for nature . He went on to study animal science , rangeland science and then wildlife management before helping to plan and set up game reserves in various parts of Southern Africa .
His experience and work in veterinary science drew him into the people and protected areas interface where he felt there were a lot of specialists doing good work in human-wildlife conflict , rangelands , animal health and production , ecology and tourism . Few , however , were taking an integrated , systems view of the complicated situation .
Van Rooyen realised the problems on the borders of protected areas were based on rangelands , community politics , land use clashes ( conservation versus farmers ), development , disease control and market access . In other words , he realised the need for a delicate balance between ecological and social priorities .
He also saw , however , that these complex problems needed a simple , community-driven solution that could be modified for local conditions and priorities .
Figure 1 . Cattle at dawn on the border of the Greater Kruger .
Herding 4 Health uses skills already in the communities – herding and kraaling predominantly – and the introduction of new technology . It enables regenerative livestock production and enhances social equity through training and enterprise development .
Grassroots Vol 21 No 4 December 2021 10