Advancing a holistic systems approach for sustainable cattle development programmes in South Africa: insights from sustainability assessments

Tawanda Marandure, James Bennett, Kennedy Dzama, Godswill Makombe, Lovemore Gwiriri, Cletos Mapiye

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article


Efforts to exploit the central roles of cattle to drive agriculture and rural development in low-income countries recorded limited success owing to their narrow focus on modernizing and commercializing low-input cattle farming. Most programs failed to take cognizance of the heterogeneous range of complex relationships between the environmental, economic, social and institutional challenges that limit low-input cattle farming. The current qualitative literature review evaluates the environmental, economic and social sustainability delivery impacts of the leading cattle development programs in the low-input farming sector in South Africa using a holistic systems approach. A mixed method procedure involving stratified sampling was used to allocate local and international-based programs while, purposive sampling was used to select programs with a wider scale of operation. The review then draws on the crosscutting key constraints emerging from the case studies to provide a better grounding for subsequent sustainability sensitive recommendations. Local-based cattle development programs advanced more market-led interventions while, their international-based counterparts had more interventions including, soil and rangeland improvement. The narrow focus by both local and international developmental programs is inadequate to address a wide array of environmental, economic, social, technical and institutional challenges faced by low-input cattle producers in South Africa.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)827-858
Number of pages32
JournalAgroecology and Sustainable Food Systems
Issue number7
Early online date23 Jan 2020
Publication statusPublished - 8 Aug 2020


  • Cattle development programmes
  • holistic systems approach
  • low-input farmers
  • sustainability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Development
  • Agronomy and Crop Science

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