According to AgriOrbit, The Herding for Health Project that was initiated by the Faculty of Veterinary Science at the University of Pretoria (UP) is a One Health, pro-poor, rural development project aimed at establishing integrated management of livestock and improving rural livelihoods in areas at the wildlife-livestock interface.
The Kruger to Canyon Biosphere Reserve (K2C), located on the western border of the Kruger National Park (KNP), is world-famous for its abundance of wildlife and natural beauty. The reserve is situated in the KNP’s buffer zone where, through collaborative partnerships, it drives the integrated land use strategy of SANParks to enable responsible, community-based use of natural resources and wildlife management that is aligned to the KNP’s socioeconomic development plans.
Blessings and burdens
In this natural wonderland however, pastoralist communities bear the burden of living so close to wildlife. Cattle farmers routinely suffer loss of livestock to predation from both small and large predators that cross the park fence boundary. Their animals are also at higher risk of contracting multi-host pathogens and infectious trans-boundary diseases, such as foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), which is spread from buffalo to cattle.
Although this viral disease does not pose a risk to food safety or public health, it can spread quickly among cloven-hoofed livestock, and is therefore difficult to control. Areas where FMD is endemic in wildlife, or the risk of spread to livestock is high, are demarcated as ‘FMD infected/protection zones’, and livestock movement, as well as the transport of most meat products from cattle, is restricted within and between these areas.
Apart from the imposed movement control of all susceptible animals, FMD is further controlled by restricting contact between buffalo and livestock. This is achieved by keeping wildlife in game-proof, fenced areas within protected areas such as the Greater KNP. Unfortunately, this restricted movement of cattle and most beef products negatively impacts market access for local cattle farmers and thus their ability to make money from their cattle.
The inability of farmers living in the FMD protection zone of the K2C to sell their cattle or move them from the area also results in rangeland degradation, as well as significant loss of livestock during periods of drought.
Managing the challenges
The Herding for Health project aims to respond to these and other pressing challenges, and to alleviate poverty among the local communities. Over the last five years, the University has engaged a range of partners who now collaborate under the banner of Herding for Health.