While those who know the Sustainability Institute and the Lynedoch site will know that one of the core focus areas is the Lynedoch Crèche, well the Sustainability Institute, in partnership with the Animal Traction Centre at Fort Hare University now have a crèche of a different kind … one of the new research projects on Eric Swarts’s organic farm is to reintroduce oxen and animal traction practices back into the farming operation. Four young oxen have been purchased by the Sustainable Agriculture programme and are currently being trained at Fort Hare, and Swartland, Dinkland , Krysman and Spaaier will be relocating from the “crèche” in the Eastern Cape to “big school” here at Lynedoch at the end of August.
The teams work with four older and experienced oxen with two of the trainees spanned in with them, following behind, a type of “shoulder to shoulder” learning.
The Animal Traction project is focussed on expanding the ecological agriculture approaches, one of these approaches being a review of the potential for transformation of agriculture through the reintroduction of cattle onto the land. This reintroduction would not necessarily be from a point of view of replacement of current “modern” traction processes, but most importantly, to rebuild the agricultural community, to bridge the gap between the land and humankind and to rekindle the respect for both the land and cattle. At a practical level, the reintroduction of cattle on the land could potentially deliver real and beneficial results, particularly when used with new and innovative “technologies”, to small and emerging farmers. At a philosophical level, the restoration of the agricultural community is a critical discussion in respect of the relationships and respect for the land.
In order to view this from a developmental and implementable perspective, there are a number of key questions that need to be asked. This research project will attempt to answer these questions through practice and on the ground experience. This will be done through the Sustainability Institute Draft Animal Traction Research Project (SIDAT) and a investigation into a set of processes that would facilitate the effective adoption of Draft Animal Traction (DAT) activities on small farms, whilst ensuring the necessary learning and knowledge generation in this regard. This project will be run as a partnership between Eric Swarts, the University of Fort Hare Animal Traction Centre and the Sustainability Institute. The project will run for one year and will be subject to review thereafter.
The project has been established to allow for the purchase of both the oxen and implements, for the specific training of the oxen to take place, as well as matching training of personnel to ensure suitable skills are in place to manage the oxen once they are on the land. A core objective of the project is to facilitate the effective introduction of draft animals onto Eric’s farm and to be able to generate learning from this introduction that would facilitate the dissemination of such knowledge. This dissemination would need to be at a number of levels, first to be facilitated as shoulder to shoulder learning amongst small emerging farmers and secondly, through the Sustainable Agriculture programme, to generate knowledge of academic use. The oxen have been purchased by the UFH ATC in accordance with their existing knowledge of the best animals for the specific needs of the SI. The oxen that have been purchased are as follows:
Swartland (Black – Mnyama)
Dinkland (Black Nkone – Nkone Mnyama)
Krysman (Red Nkone – Nkone Mbomvu)
Spaaier (Dun Nkone – Nkone Mdaka)
A specific action research position has been created and filled by one of the Sustainable Development Masters students, funded through the programme to conduct the action research, and later to draft their Masters thesis on the project. It is planned that this will assist in the development of knowledge and the generation of specific outcomes that emerge from the process enabling the replication of the learning’s from the project.