Thanks to an investment from the Eastern Cape department of rural development and agrarian reform (DRDAR), farmers who are part of the Bongweni Woolgrowers Association are now able to trade commercially, competing with well-established sheep farmers.
An investment of more than R1.3 million into a multipurpose shearing shed in Mnquma Local Municipality’s Bongweni Village, is expected to improve the livelihood of farmers in the area who previously farmed for subsistence purposes only.
For Nosiseko Mbangeleli, the investment into their businesses is life-changing. She said before she joined the Bongweni Shearing Shed, she only had 40 sheep but now her flock has increased five-fold.
“The rams that we received improved the quality of our flock. Our flock were not of good quality before even our wethers were small. Our sheep now produce genetically superior lambs. When I joined this project, I only had 40 sheep, now my flock has 220 sheep.”
Invest in operations
Speaking at the handover ceremony, DRDAR MEC Nonkqubela Pieters said beneficiaries had been assisted with rams of superior genetics through the department’s livestock improvement programme. This is to improve the quality of the flock and ultimately, wool.
“The shearing shed we are handing over today bears testimony to that. The ball is now in your court. We have given you the foundation already. To help sustain this business, it is important to invest back in its operations by buying the latest equipment for wool harvesting, investing in security systems and the welfare of your flock,” Pieters said.
She further urged farmers to sell their cattle while they are still young and not wait until they are old.
The department gave the association 10 Dohne Merino rams in 2016, and the genetic injection is said to have greatly improved their flock the following year. They also made 36 bales which translated into an income of R340 000. In 2019, they were given another 10 Merino rams by the department, and 15 in 2022.
In the 2022/23 shearing season, the association produced 48 bales, giving them an income of R648 000.
Farmers see the returns
The chairperson of the business, Mzimasi Gazi, said they used to utilise rondavels to shear sheep, which was a challenge.
“Now we have our own shed which has a presser, sorter, and everything needed for shearing. The equipment will help us immensely because we will no longer hire a presser from other shearing sheds.”
Nosdima Mabokela, one of the elderly members of the association, said there was a significant improvement in her life after she joined the Wool Growers Association. “Out of my income, I was able to do great things (for my family).”
Nolast Mbingeleli joined in 2016 with only 50 sheep. “After I joined, I saw a lot of improvement and that it will take me far. As I speak now, I have 130 sheep,” Mbingeleli said.
Mncekeleli Mcetywa of Lahlangubo Village said after he joined the Bongweni Woolgrowers Association, his income improved.
“Before we got this shed I had to hire shearers to go to my house, hire the sorting table and hire a vehicle to take the wool to Bongweni for pressing. It would get dirty along the way and some would fall off the vehicle,” Mcetywa said. After receiving rams from DRDAR, his wool clip improved and was graded higher than before.
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