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SA Wingshooters’ rural gamebird development programme is focused on the upliftment of rural livelihoods in communal and commercial rural areas through the potential that exists for local level transformation and SMME venture creation. At the same time the programme enhances the potential for additional job creation through skills transfer and training opportunities in these areas. The programme enhances biodiversity conservation through habitat rehabilitation and or improvement. Implementation of local level sub-projects creates the beginning of an appropriately managed environmentally and economically sustainable national development programme focused on the establishment of a gamebird industry in the rural areas of the country. The programme has the potential to generate significant overseas tourism revenues, which is in line with the Government latest target of generating 10% of GDP from tourism.

A Massive Potential

Wingshooting is the segment of natural resource utilisation which has been most neglected in South Africa. The potential of Wingshooting is massive, as overseas statistics below indicate: In the United Kingdom, the gamebirds industry provides 70,000 full-time equivalent jobs and produces an expenditure by providers and participants of more that £2,2 billion (R26,4 billion) each year! In North America more than 30 million gamebirds are shot annually and wingshooters outnumber other hunters by 15 to one. It has developed into a massive industry in American and European countries and at the same time has secured the conservation of gamebird species and their habitat in those countries.

In contrast, the utilization of gamebirds in South Africa amount to little more than a leisure outdoor activity. Despite the fact that gamebirds are indicator species of the quality of the habitat, there are no official or formal gamebird conservation programmes. Moreover, the deliberate poisoning of gamebirds for food (using agricultural pesticides such as monochrotophos and aldicarb) has taken on epidemic proportions. Gamebirds such as guineafowl, francolin, ducks, geese and pigeons, can be regarded as one of the most underestimated natural resources of South Africa.

The increasing awareness of this, together with the realization of a virtually untapped natural resource with a significant potential to penetrate the overseas sporting market, has led to a renewed interest in gamebirds as an earner of foreign currency. Gamebird conservation is compatible with virtually all forms of agriculture in South Africa, be it crop or domestic stock ranching. Gamebird utilisation is also the ideal integrated system for optimal use of biodiversity and natural resources, and to provide additional protein and income in communal farming communities. At the same time it motivates the rangeland owners and local communities to implement sound conservation and management practices.

The SA Wingshooters Association’s programme of Natural Resource-based Rural Community Development (RCD) has played a pivotal role in the development and marketing of more than twelve annual Community Shoots in which an estimated R3,0 million is raised each year for the respective local communities. Based on an estimated multiplication factor of ten, this constitutes an economic effect of R30,0 million per annum for rural communities. A number of new RCD projects are under development in several Provinces. It is a modest start but the potential is very large!

Unfortunately the development of this resource is hampered by the failure of Central Government and Provincial authorities to recognise Wingshooting as a natural resource utilisation which is distinctly separate from hunting, resulting in an almost complete neglect of the development and conservation of the resource.

Job Creation

The average estimated wage of farm labourers who very frequently act as trackers and/or as skinners, or beaters is generally in the order of R42 per day (ca. 2004). This amount translates into less than 1,5% of the daily fee hunters generally pay. There are an estimated 9,000 job opportunities (full time and/or part time) to be created among farm labourers (gamekeepers, assistant gamekeepers, guides & beaters) in especially the horticulture sector.

Creating a gamebird industry in South Africa

picIt is in realising these facts (or rather the omitted additional potential) that the need for the creation of an environmental and economic sustainable gamebird hunting industry was grasped by the SA Wingshooters. At wingshooters we have started with a pilot scheme to initiate the creation of such an industry to function alongside and supplementing the already established game ranching and hunting industry in the country. The significant difference, however, lies in the Wingshooters’ programme being focused on commercial farm lands with extension into communal rural areas (tribal areas – former homelands).

In the communal areas few opportunities exists for the establishment of any form of biodiversity conservation, due to the nature of everyday economic realities in these areas (households of 6 on average have an annual income of R8,500 c.a. 2004). The Wingshooters’ programme has the potential to in crease rural income through wingshooting by introduction of gamebird habitat rehabilitation and or improvement measures on both commercial and communal rural areas - greatly enhancing the numbers of wild gamebirds on such lands without much effort.

The creation of the gamebird development programme enhances the national drive to achieve sustainable rural livelihoods for especially individuals or small groups of PDI communities in this country:

  • The need for job creation - by creating two levels of jobs associated with gamebird raising in commercial and communal rural areas through innovative new training programmes (a Gamekeepers and Assistant Gamekeepers programme underwritten and supported by PAETA – the national Primary Agriculture Education and Training Authority).
  • The need for venture creation in communal rural communities (wild gamebird raising and conservation in niche areas – feeding into the development of community shoots under auspices of SA Wingshooters – in turn feeding into the creation of a community friendly game meat market in communal rural areas).
  • The government’s imperative for transformation through SMME development (getting farm labourers to participate in rural economies of scale – training as gamekeepers for additional income – establishing SMMEs on local level in communal rural areas to raise gamebirds in the wild to sell to shooting venues and Game Ranches for wingshooting encounters [enhanced income in communal rural areas])
  • The need for human benefit to be created and enhanced through biodiversity conservation brought about by sustainable use of natural resources (without conservation of the wild stock and their environment, rural SMMEs will not function in an economically sustainable manner - thus creating conservation activities which benefit people and wildlife and the environment [enhancement of gamebird habitat conservation])
  • The need to grow additional rural industries (tapping into the lucrative national and international hunting market as foreign currency earner in rural areas by linking gamebird related activities in commercial and in communal rural areas)

An appropriate managed gamebird programme in rural areas would most probably not return the staggering financial returns reported from the UK and the USA in the short to medium term. It does, however, have the potential to make a large contribution to biodiversity and habitat conservation through ecologically and economically sound sustainable use projects, which directly translates into opportunities for additional job creation in the rural areas of the country if managed correctly.

If you are part of a commercial farming community where the emphasis is on crop farming and you experience some level of destruction of crops due to gamebird activity, please feel free to contact the Wingshooters’ office so that we can talk to you about initiating a gamebird development programme in your area.