Dr Silke Pfitzer
The Siyatutuka Farmers Community Project is situated near White River in Mpumalanga on the interface between Kruger National Park and its adjacent rural agricultural communities.
Siyatutuka comprises an area of 76,000 hectares stretching from the Crocodile River in the south to the Sabie River in the north. This area consists of communal land scattered with towns and villages. Siyatutuka has a human population of approximately 320 000. In this area there are 1 977 cattle owners with a total cattle population estimated at 16 135.
There are no private veterinarians in the area and most pet and cattle owners are too poor to afford basic veterinary care for their animals.
The Siyatutuka Farmers Community Project has been led by Dr Cobus Raath since 2010 is now administered under the NGO Southern African Conservation Trust Wildlife & Communities (SACT). The project has recently been registered as a SAVA CVC and is executed by Wildlifevets.com, a private wildlife veterinary practice. It is also sustained by international veterinary students who assist as part of their conservation training course with Wildlifevets.net (a division of Source Tree (Pty) Ltd.) in South Africa. The international students usually view their community work as one of the highlights of their trip!
Significant diseases including rabies, foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), anthrax, corridor disease, canine distemper, African swine fever, canine parvo virus, brucellosis, and both human and bovine tuberculosis occur in the area. Thus, this situation presents a unique and unmatched opportunity for veterinarians and veterinary students to be immersed in a community health project where the Interface Conservation Medicine model is real and immediate.
The Siyatutuka project works closely with the local state veterinary services, CCS veterinarians associated with state veterinary services, and with the local state veterinary technicians that service the community. The project team also collaborates with the Department of Rural Development and Land Affairs and, not surprisingly, also with the local Nsikasi community farmers.
Since 2015 our efforts have contributed in excess of 3500 lumpy skin vaccinations to cattle in the Nsikasi area at 12 dip tanks including Daantjie, Mpakeni, Maushu, Msogwama, Luphisi, Clau Clau, and Spelanyani areas. We have also supplied much needed food for cattle and dogs in areas where we were servicing dip tanks. This was well-received and strengthens the relationship between the community and the project.
Our aims for 2018 are to further expand the vaccination and primary health care programs for dogs and cattle as this has made a substantial difference since the start of the initiative. We would also like to help expand the spay campaigns of the state veterinary services, making use of their mobile facilities, and organize a mobile abattoir for the community because farmers are limited as to where they can transport their cattle for slaughter as a result of the FMD movement restrictions.
Furthermore, we plan to educate the herders as much as possible in more efficient and humane handling of animals as this remains an issue. Fortunately, with the diverse mix of students from various parts of the world there is never a shortage of new strategies and ideas to assist in improving the dip tank process.