In partnership with local conservation agency, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, we were tasked by the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Agriculture, Environmental Affairs and Rural Development to undertake social facilitation and community consultation as part of the Ndumo Intervention Programme. This initiative aims to assist the Bhekabantu and Mbangweni communities living on the eastern border of Ndumo Game Reserve.
As a first step towards restoring the conservation integrity of Ndumo Game Reserve, consultations were held with community leaders who welcomed the collaboration between government and civil society organisations to find meaningful and long-term alternative income opportunities for the communities residing adjacent to the reserve.
A five-year project implementation plan that focuses food security, crop production, water supply/irrigation, water points for livestock, aquaculture and micro-enterprise development was drafted and approved by the relevant authorities.
The business plan for the introduction of commercial crop tunnels and the production of cash crops was completed in 2014, and crop fields were cleared and fenced for the planting of groundnuts. Boreholes were sunk, water tanks erected and water points created for domestic cattle. Water to irrigate crops will be extracted from the Pongola River by way of a pump system.
Dip tanks were installed and are regularly inspected by livestock management officers from the KZN Department of Agriculture and Environmental Affairs. These officers work closely with the local community and advise them on the use of the dip tanks and the detection of livestock diseases.
Fifteen trainees from the beneficiary community underwent an introductory 30-day agricultural cooperative training programme intended to equip them with the skills to establish and manage an agricultural cooperative. Following completion of the training, the trainees consulted with the community leadership structures and have initiated the process to register a formal agricultural cooperative with assistance from the Umhlabuyalingana Municipality. The agricultural cooperative will play an important role in all future project activities, particularly those of a commercial nature.