Rangelands vary from desert shrub to lush grassland, and provide the main fodder source for the national cattle and small-stock herds as well as for wildlife. The productivity of all the rangelands of South Africa has been deteriorating as a result of inter alia desertification, bush encroachment and the loss of palatable plant species. Should this deterioration be allowed to continue unchecked, sustainable animal and food production would not be possible in the long term. It is essential that ongoing research be undertaken to increase understanding of the driving forces that determines changes in vegetation.
It is the mandate of the ARC-API to promote the sustainable utilisation of our veld, pasture and livestock resources, by improving and increasing animal products (meat, dairy and fibre) without degradation of our natural resources and the loss of biodiversity. Close alignment with government, collaboration with user groups and co-ordinated interaction between research and development institutions concerned with livestock production from veld and pastures, is of utmost importance.
National Research and Development projects are carried out across provincial boundaries in the following biomes:
- Karoo (Nama and succulent)
- Grassland (central and sour)
- Savannah (mesic and arid)
This research programme addresses the needs of the livestock industries and their related pastoral farming communities, provinces and the National Department of Agriculture through two national expert centres supported by strategic-geographically-decentralized development stations. There is a centre of excellence for the small stock industry with the head office based at Grootfontein and a centre of excellence for the large stock industry with its head office based at Irene.
For farmers and communities to benefit from our research, efficient farmer-research- extension linkages are a prerequisite. Provincial Departments of Agriculture have been assigned the task of extension (information transfer) and are directly involved in agricultural development at the provincial level. Research is a support function in this delivery system and is closely integrated with the specific needs of each province as well as the needs of the affected livestock producer organisations (National Wool Growers Association, Mohair Producers, Red Meat Producers Organisation and National Emerging Red Meat Producers Organisation). By decentralising the management of the institute in the two well-focussed centres of excellence we are confident that we will be able to achieve the said objectives.