The Nguni Project

In February this year one of our fieldworkers, Nelisiwe, wrote about the practice of ukusiselana ngemfuyo, whereby someone would lend a cow and a bull to a person in their community who was struggling financially. The idea is that the cow would provide milk, and would hopefully bear calves, and in this way the person would be a given a bit of help getting back on their feet. When things were better, the cow and the bull would be returned to the person who had loaned them out, sometimes with the gift of an additional cow as a way of saying thank you.

When I listened to a recent interview about the Nguni Project it reminded me of the story of ukusiselana ngemfuyo – the principles really aren’t that different. The Nguni Project is run in seven of our provinces, with the aim of helping to establish dairy farmers and at the same time strengthen the incredible Nguni breed. The Department of Agriculture, with the assistance of the Industrial Development Corporation and local universities, identifies suitable applicants who have the land and the know-how to care for the cattle. Once these basic requirements have been met (assistance is sometime given in terms of land acquisition and training) the successful applicant will receive 30 cows and one bull, on loan. After five years, the beneficiary must return the cattle to the project’s herd.

It is a relatively simple concept, but one that has proved very successful, with the number of provinces involved in the project increasing and the number of cows loaned out growing day by day. It’s great to see a modern day interpretation of age-old Zulu customs helping to make a difference in the lives of a new generation of South Africans.

Photograph courtesy of

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