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By Matṧeliso Phulane
Wool and mohair farmers in Shishila village at Kao say scarcity of water sources and rangelands in the area is hampering efforts to sustain livestock farming.
This is exacerbated by lack of access to shops that sell animal feeds and medication to treat sick animals. The farmers have to travel about 120km to procure medications in Ficksburg, South Africa.
A representative of the farmers, Izanaye Tjoka, said water sources have diminished as a result of mining operations.
He told theReporter in an interview last Friday during handed over rams and ewes to farmers at Kao Mine that the dwindling graze lands are put under further pressure by the burning of pastures by shepherds which has become rampant in recent years.
“Farmers need to work hand in hand with the local community council to keep a watchful eye on the practice by paying regular visits to cattle posts to enlighten herd boys about the dangers of pasture fires.
“But what really bothers us is the regular outbreaks of diseases among our animals. The most common disease is bacterial pneumonia which can be treated with vaccines. However, these are not available here and we have to travel to all the way to Ficksburg to buy them; this is quite costly,” Tjoka noted.
Storm Mountain Diamonds Mine (SMD) donated 43 rams and 86 ewes to farmers in the vicinity of Kao Mine. Some of the ewes had already given birth to 24 lambs by the time of the donation.
SMD is jointly owned by Namakwa Diamonds and the government of Lesotho. The mine has an active Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programme aimed at improving the livelihoods of communities surrounding the operation.
The initiative is aimed at adding value to the production of wool and mohair for the farmers and enhancing breeding through procurement of better-quality rams and ewes. It also seeks to improve nutrition through the restoration and rehabilitation of rangelands.
This is the second time the mine has handed over rams to the community. Last year, it gave 30 rams to the farmers, in addition to constructing offices and accommodation rooms for the Motete Wool and Mohair Woolshed staff.
Deserving farmers received one ram and two pregnant ewes each at the event held at Shishila Primary School in Kao.
The Chief Executive Officer of Kao Mine, Mohale Ralikariki, expressed appreciation at the enduring peace between the mine and the local community over the years.
Ralikariki pointed out that during times of strained relations between the community and the mine, certain opportunities remained unrealised.
He emphasized the importance of preserving the current state of harmony to enable future achievements, stating, “Let us maintain the peace we have now so that we can collectively achieve great things.
“As we distribute these 43 rams and 86 ewes to farmers around the mine, we believe that this will enhance agricultural practices among community members,” he noted.
Ralikariki urged the beneficiaries to take good care of their gifts because it is only through them that the mine can make a similar donation next year.
“I want to assure you that we are going to follow up on how you have taken care of the animals, that includes if they are still being vaccinated,” Ralikariki said.
On behalf of the beneficiaries, ‘Makeneuoe Lebona said she was among the people who were moved by the project.
She added that she was happy that the project had kept its promised to compensate them with rams and ewes to improve their livehoods.
This was a sign that more benefits were coming, Lebona indicated.
Explaining the procedure for identifying beneficiaries, ministry of agriculture and food security extension officer livestock, ‘Malehlohonolo Ntjelo, said potential recipients of the sheep were required to hand in application letters to the mine for selection.
Ntjelo said the farmers were informed through a public gathering while the selection process was done by the mine after intensive interviews.
“We then trained the applications before proceeding to purchase the rams and ewes in South Africa. The initial plan was to buy rams only, but we had some money left, which we used to buy the ewes.
“One of the mine’s conditions was for applicants to cooperate with the trainers. We did not take into consideration a farmer’s political or religious affiliation. The only requirement was for applicants to be residents of Motete with interest in sheep rearing.
“However, those who applied but did not attend interviews did not receive the sheep,” Ntjelo concluded.