With a budding YouTube channel and a deep passion for her community, veterinarian Dr Mukani Nobela is determined to make an impact.
Nobela (30) always had an interest in agriculture. After taking it as a subject in high school, she found herself enamoured with animal science.
“Growing up in Giyani [in Limpopo], I had never seen a veterinarian. It was really a sad situation to see people’s animals getting sick or run over but no-one knew where to seek help. This made me want to become that veterinarian or ‘animal doctor’ that people in the rural areas and townships can rely on.”
After attending Risinga High School in Giyani, Nobela went on to study veterinary science at the University of Pretoria. Her hope had always been to go back to her community as a rural veterinarian, but her studies opened up other opportunities.
“I fell in love with another part of veterinary medicine, though the communal area was still embedded in my heart. It happened that after completing my community service, I was presented with two opportunities: to go with the new love or to go back to my roots and my original plan.”
Being a state vet in rural Mzansi
In the end, her love for her community won. Nobela is currently working as a state veterinarian in the Moses Kotane local municipality in the North West. “I feel passionate about working with communal farmers because I wish to see them grow and contribute more towards the local economy.”
Practicing veterinary science in rural South Africa can be very challenging. Communal farmers tend not to have access to commercial veterinary services and thus depend on the support they receive from state veterinarians, like Nobela.
In the municipality where Nobela works, her office serves around 110 villages. “[The villages] are comprised of more or less 217 registered communal farms, plus an unknown number of backyard farmers. We also have a clinic where we serve companion animals,” she says.
As a state veterinarian, another challenge she faces is a lack of handling facilities in the municipality where she works. Sometimes she has difficulty re-educating communal farmers around some of their practices. “Working with elderly farmers can be a bit of a challenge. Sometimes they are not flexible in learning new ways to take care of animals and unlearning old practices that might be harmful to the animals’ well-being.”
The rewards of her work tend to outweigh the negative, though. High on her list of reasons for loving her job is that she gets to help people. “I get to help communities improve their livelihoods through improving the healthcare of their livestock.
“Also, the feeling that comes with being a voice of the voiceless, defending and assisting those that can’t speak for themselves. [I am] of course, referring to the animals. [This] makes me love my career choice even more.”
Educating farmers is vital
Nobela’s primary focus as a veterinarian is educating communal farmers. She is passionate about rural development and believes education is the key to developing rural areas. “Most of the work that I focus on is clinical and educational extension services.”
Her passion for education has led her to starting a YouTube channel called “Primary animal health care Dr Nobs”, where every week she breaks down different issues communal farmers may face. Her current video series focuses heavily on animal vaccinations, with easy-to-understand explanations on why vaccinating is important. Dr Nobela is a natural on camera, and her passion for her work is evident.
For anyone interested in going into veterinary services, she says they need to know that it is not easy. “Brace yourself. Just loving animals is not enough, you also need to have good communication and leadership skills.”
Nobela derives inspiration from those closest to her. Her parents, her friends and grandmother all inspire her in different ways. “My dads – I am blessed with two – inspire me to serve and give without expecting anything in return,” she says. “The faith my mom and grandmother has reminds me always that nothing is impossible.
“My friends inspire me to go for what I want, to be true to myself and to live a life of no regrets. I see them go outside the country and this always reminds me that we all have the ability to perform extraordinary feats if we believe in ourselves”.