Project Participant: Mandy Schumann, Nieuwoudtville Northern Cape
1. Tell us about yourself. Where do you farm, your family and your interests?
I work for the Department of Agriculture, Environmental Affairs, Rural Development and Land Reform, in the Biodiversity Stewardship unit. I live in Nieuwoudtville, Northern Cape, on a small holding and have some milking goats, chickens and Muscovys. I don’t have green fingers but supply all my own milk, eggs and meat and trade some of what I produce with friends for other products. I have limited the livestock I have so that the camp I utilise has never been grazed bare, there has always been ground cover.
2. In once paragraph - what is your farming philosophy?
I am not a farmer, but as a biodiversity stewardship officer, I work with farmers. The ethos of biodiversity stewardship is a living working landscape. I believe most things are not a case of “don’t do something” but “where and how” you do it. Farming and conservation go hand in hand. Maintaining Biodiversity and farming sustainability cannot be compromised for short term gain, without sabotaging the future production potential of a property and its natural resources.
3.Tell us about one of your farming challenges and how you solved it.
Encouraging farmers to change some of the traditional practices such as ploughing to minimal tillage, to practice more conservative use of the veld and to practice holistic predator management. These challenges are not simple to solve, but can be proven through finding farmers who are open to change and are already implementing innovative changes. Working with these farmers and showcasing these champion farmers is essential to providing a platform for other farmers to learn from.
4. What is the most important SLM lesson that you have learned?
Because of climate change, the predicted increase in extreme events like the ongoing drought, farmers are more vulnerable. Too many farms carried high numbers of livestock and did not have spare rested camps when the drought struck, so their veld very quickly deteriorated in the drought. This resulted in no fodder in the veld in the early stages of the drought and the need to feed livestock. Stock conservatively in the good years and focus on building productive palatable veld, as well as investing in innovative ways to reduce dependency on the veld, such as diversification of income and ideas like feed containers etc.