RAN Team in the Digkale Community, Southern Africa Resilience Innovation Lab

Thursday, June 2, 2016 - 09:30

A section of the RAN Secretariat team travelled to the Southern Africa Resilience Innovation Lab (RI Lab), hosted at the University of Pretoria to offer technical assistance to the 13 projects (7 RIC4FIG http://www.ranlab.org/innovations/ric4fig-grantees projects being incubated and the 6 newly awarded YSIG Grantees) on Community Engagement, Needfinding, Business thinking, MKITs as well as induction of the newly awarded YSIG grantees to the RAN administrative and technical processes.

On May 23-24, 2016, the Southern Africa RILab team comprising the Innovation Officer and Program Coordinator together with the RAN Secretariat team conducted a community engagement exercise with 2 RIC4FIG projects operating in Digkale, Limpopo province. The Dikgale community is situated in a drought prone area with brutally high temperatures, low soil fertility and less than 500 mm of rainfall and typifies conditions that cannot support rain fed agriculture. This community engagement activity  provided the RAN Secretariat team with a contextual understanding of the communities within South Africa and the dynamics under which they operate which will  prove valuable when  providing technical support to the 13 projects on the above mentioned aspects because as the team will be in position to provide contextual and relevant feedback.  The team had the opportunity to engage with two projects under RIC4FIG; The Goats Value Chain for Prosperity (G4P) and The Trust Insects for Food (TIFF) project that are being implemented within the Digkale Community.  Both projects have demonstrated tremendous progress achieved both in the Needfinding and thereafter. This was an eye- opening experience for the RAN Secretariat team, presenting great learning opportunities and complex community challenges throughout the operation process.

Briefly, the Goats Value Chain for Prosperity (G4P) innovation project is implemented in Dikgale Community in Limpopo Province, South Africa by RAEIN-Africa. The problem is that in the Dikgale community, one of the main resilience strategies is small livestock rearing where the indigenous goat breeds are mainly available. These indigenous breeds have low kidding rates, short lactation periods and low milk productivity. In addition, communities have limited infrastructure and skills to process goat milk into other products. The Goats Value Chain for Prosperity (G4P) project seeks to develop a profitable goat value chain involving; goat and milk production, cheese processing and goat milk and cheese advertising and marketing business in Digkale community. The project has conducted Needfinding studies with end-users in Digkale and preliminary insights reveal that there is value in Goat herding; Goats are a viable business in Digkale because goats occupy the same ranking with cows and goats are browser although there is a challenge in maintaining the dynamic linkages with the multiple actors at the various levels of the value chain. Key lessons learned revealed that; whether to pursue an individual or cooperative unit  or not for goat milk collection is still a challenge due to the multiple actors involved in the value chain which the project will still need to do a rapid prototype on to come up with possible solutions. The project envisages positive impact on several fronts: Technical- will increase goat and milk productivity. Financially –increased incomes from the value addition to goat products. Socially – improved social capital. Organizationally – the establishment of public, private partnerships; Economically–the increased use of goat milk reduces vulnerabilities to diseases and increases food security improving nutrition outcomes (e.g. low stunting) and reduces poverty.

The Trust Insects for Food (TIFF) project is also being implemented in Dikgale Community of Limpopo Province in South Africa by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). The climatic conditions in Digkale make it difficult to grow the staple maize without supplementary irrigation leading to food insecurity. TIFF provides a potential solution to this problem through introduction of a fast yielding resilient cereal like sorghum to ensure food security without irrigation and intensive inputs. The resilience of the crop is a further advantage towards combating the adverse effects of climate change in poor communities. Sorghum is the most ideal foundation of the innovation due to its adaptability to harsh conditions. The innovative valorisation of sorghum plant offers a direct solution towards addressing food and feed security through intertwining crop and insect farming. Valorisation of a resilient crop through utilization of waste streams, in the process creating enterprises and jobs is an important innovation for rural communities like Dikgale. The emerging enterprises will also contribute towards income and job creation for the unemployed. The project plans to develop an “out-of-the-box” farming system, commercially producing grain sorghum and development of enterprise value chains from a single crop. From the community engagement, we learnt that the project has already expanded its variety from sorghum to 9 other prototype mixtures including soy beans, pigeon peas among others. The Needfinding survey revealed that the community has complex land tenure systems where the land is communally owned and for one to obtain land, you need to get permission from the Chiefs, yet this has its own conditions attached.  However, most challenging is the fact that community members are not motivated to engage in the projects; so a key insight is to explore how we can involve communities in the TIFF project activities in the first place.

RANSec and SA RILab in the home of Elizabeth Lechelele a community beneficiary of Goats for Prosperity -G4P-project -Explanation being given by the G4P Project leader Doreen Mnyulwa.