The South African government is encouraging farmers in the country to diversify their operations as the drought persists around the country.

This emerged at a three-day wildlife conservation conference held at the Pilanesberg National Park in Moruleng near Rustenburg in North West Province.

Wildlife is a multi-billion-rand industry, which can be an oasis for the drought-hit farmers as it provides a range of opportunities in conservation and tourism.

Andrew Aphane, who used to be a cattle farmer, but has now ventured into game farming, says: “When you drive around, you will see cattle that if you can push it with your finger, it will just fall, because there’s no grass.”

While the wildlife sector has historically been reserved for the affluent, locals are now beginning to explore possibilities of participating and benefiting from it.

The Chief Executive Officer of the Commercial Hunters Association of South Africa, Stephen Palos, says that with relevant knowledge, the effects of the drought on wildlife can be mitigated.

“Game and wildlife is probably going to be far more sustainable in the future. It already is more sustainable in our marginable lands so it’s a tremendous barrier to the vagrant issues of drought in good and bad times.”

But game farmers also have to dig deep into their pockets to maintain their animals during this dry spell, saying that the their cost of farming has increased dramatically and they are forced to feed, because animals which are fed well will breed well. Most importantly, the cost has increased astronomically, they add.

Meanwhile, the government is leading a programme to foster transformation in game farming.

Animals donated by private breeders have been auctioned to raise funds to assist aspiring game farmers.

The Member of the Executive Council (MEC) for the Environment in the North West provincial government, Manketse Tlhape, says: “The proceeds of the sale are going to what we have established, the Roma Nna Legacy Trust Fund is going to give support to the biodiversity transformation projects that we have just announced. We have identified six projects.”

The conference also focused in finding ways of ensuring that communities living around game parks also benefit from them.

Source: Nam News Network