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Focus on the provinces: Northern Province Ostrich farming gives hope for a better future

The well-known saying that some people hide their heads in the sand like an ostrich, refers to someone who refuses to face reality or recognize the truth (a reference to the belief that the ostrich hides from danger by burying its head in the sand). A group of women in the Northern Cape, who faced the stark reality of poverty, didn't bury their heads in the sand, but created some hope by starting an ostrich-farming co-op.

Although the land area of the Northern Cape is the largest of South Africa's nine provinces, it has the smallest population.

Large parts of the province are arid or semi desert with low rainfall. The main economic activities in the province are mining and farming. Farming consists mainly of livestock and some small-scale wine farms. Most of the people employed in the farming and mining sectors are men, which leaves many women unemployed. For many, their only income is through social grants like childsupport and old-age grants.

Reality

This was the stark reality faced by a group of women in the small farming town of Campbell outside Douglas about 100 kilometres from Kimberley. Ostrich farming is now providing them with hope for a better future.

Rather than living from hand-tomouth, the group of 15 women, including three youths, formed a co-operative called Basadi ba Kamoso (Setswana for 'Women of the Future') in November 2009.

With an amount of R700 000 funding from the National Development Agency (NDA), they started an ostrich farming project at Campbell where they lease one-and-half hectares of land.

Guidance and training

"We bought 100 ostrich chicks and started rearing them," said project leader Anna Theifane. They also bought fencing equipment, piping for water and animal feed. In addition, they built two enclosures for small ostrich chicks and bought an old caravan to use as an office.

The Northern Cape Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development helps the allwomen co-operative with extension services such as ongoing guidance and training. The extension officer visits the ostrich farm three times a month.

Co-op members also received training in ostrich farming, business management, and financial management.

Profit

Once the ostriches weigh about 40 kilograms, they are sold to abattoirs in Kimberley. "We use the money from profits to buy extra ostrich chicks from a farmer in Douglas, as well as animal feed and medication," said Theifane.

The co-op members also get a monthly stipend from the profits made through the sale of ostriches, which helps them to support their families. "We chose ostrich farming because it is a unique project and there is no competitor," said Ogodiseng Lebatle, Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development extension officer.

"Since the outbreak of disease in the ostrich farming areas of the Western Cape, most ostrich farmers have relocated to the Northern Cape and we see ostrich farming as our area of growth."

– Mbulelo Baloyi