Poverty is not only defined in economic terms but also has links with malnutrition and health. Whilst food security is defined as the human right to be able to access safe, affordable and sufficient food to be well nourished and lead productive lives (Food and Agriculture Org. 1997). Focusing on the role of food and nutrition security is a step closer towards alleviating poverty. Most South Africans residing in rural communities do suffer from a nutritional crisis. This economic deprivation reflects in the growth of rural children. A recent national study showed that 26.5% of South African children in rural villages were stunted compared to 16.7% of children in urban areas (www.hsag.co.za). Most stunting and underweight problems are related to the inability of the poor to access enough nutritious food to meet their needs.
The demand for animal and energy protein among rural communities in South Africa is increasing on a daily basis. The increase of rural poverty has resulted in many rural people having no disposable income to afford a balanced diet. Heifer international South Africa has helped give back to rural communities a better life by taking an active role in community development projects which provides them with good nutrition and an additional household income. The Zusiphe Goat Project near Nkandla in KwaZulu –Natal has provided project members with indigenous goats and vegetable and fruit seedlings. These gifts shared by Heifer, has empowered project members with skills and knowledge to help sustain themselves against malnutrition. The goat population is progressing and goats have been passed on to additional project members. The vegetable gardens are flourishing and grow a variety of healthy vegetables for home consumption and future plans of introducing an agro-store and a market place are in progress.
This project is a smallholder goat farming system which aims at assisting rural communities uplift their livelihood structures taking into account the important socio-economic issues towards improving the standard of living.
Goats are of particular importance and provide poor farmers with a vast range of products and services such as meat, milk, manure and skin production. Goat meat provides a good source of protein. It is a healthy red meat which is low in calories, fats and cholesterol. It is well known that goat milk is more nutritious than cow milk, hence can provide the much needed nutrients for children and people living with HIV/AIDs especially from poor rural communities. The property of goat milk is therapeutic enough for infants. Goat milk is richer in iron than human, cow and sheep milk. Goat milk also contains higher selenium content than bovine milk and could be important as an ‘anti-oxidant’ factor that contributes towards the prevention of cancer and cardiovascular disease (Steele M 1996). The advantages of goat farming include being resistant to drought, they require less fodder than cattle and they also reproduce faster than cattle. Sustainable goat farming can play a very important role in rural areas providing good nutrition, and this is one of the reasons why goats are sometimes referred to as the “poor man’s cow”.
With poverty, malnutrition and a growing population in the rural areas of South Africa, Heifer has found solutions to help feed and provide a possible source of income and nutrition to these people. The desire for a better life is possible with the help of Heifer.