A survey of Karakul sheep farmers in Southern Kalahari, Botswana: management practices and constraints to improving production

Author: S.J. Nsoso and M.J. Madimabe
Year: 2003
Issue: 1
Volume: 4
Page: 23 - 27

Karakul sheep breed has a lot to offer to livestock production in many parts of Botswana. This breed of sheep is acclimatised to desert conditions, which prevail in most parts of Botswana. This breed produces a range of products viz meat, milk, fur/pelt and wool, allowing for diversification of farm produce hence reduced risks attached to the production of a single product. The Karakul breed has however, not spread to most parts of Botswana for reasons that are not obvious. There has been scanty research on production attributes and constraints to production faced by local farmers in Botswana. Therefore, the objective of this research was to administer a survey questionnaire to Karakul sheep farmers in order to document management practices farmers employ and also find out problems that they encounter in their production systems and then provide possible solutions. The results showed that on average the 10 interviewed Karakul farmers kept 214.3±196.7 Karakul sheep, 141.1±151.1 beef cattle, mainly Tswana-Brahman crosses and 183.8±68.5 goats, mainly Boer goat and Tswana-Boer goat crosses. Such farming strategy reduces risks attached to one enterprise due to market fluctuations and droughts, which are common in this part of the country. Karakul sheep farmers also keep donkeys, mules and horses that are a source of transport in this sandy part of Botswana. The majority of farmers practice free range grazing systems, supplementing their sheep when ever is necessary. The major constraints to efficient karakul production are lack of animal feeds during periods of scarcity, lack of market for pelts and meat, lack of skilled manpower, lack of capital and diseases. These constraints could be solved by the involvement of the government in aiding Karakul sheep farmers. Firstly, by establishing contacts and contracts with the wetter parts of the country, where feeds can be readily produced. Secondly, by providing skilled labour such as pelt sorters and graders. Thirdly, by providing a similar marketing strategy as for beef cattle and lastly encouraging disease research in Kalahari area. Provision of solution to the current production constraints would tremendously boost farmers production and their income hence leading to the goal of national food security, which has been advocated for sometime now.

Keywords: Botswana, Karakul, sheep
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