An assessment of entrepreneurial attributes determining the potential of smallholder dairy farmers progressing to commercial farming.
Dairy production plays an important role in the economies of developing countries where it contributes to national gross production, provides milk for nutrition and is used for income generation. Dairy farming is critical in rural development, poverty alleviation and food and nutrition security in sub-Sahara Africa due to the large number of cattle owned by smallholder rural communities. Entrepreneurial skills among communal and emerging farmers have not been widely assessed and profiled to determine their importance among smallholder farmers. Successful entrepreneurship requires the farmer to possess a vision for growth, good interpersonal skills, strong marketing strategies, sound management skills and sharp cost-benefit consciousness. Many smallholder farmers are not able to realize meaningful economic returns from the dairy enterprise because of lack of entrepreneurial skills. The objective of the study was to determine whether emerging and communal dairy farmers have the entrepreneurial attributes required to progress to commercial dairy cattle farming. Demographic data, production and management practices and financial data were collected using face to face interviews, focus group discussions, Likert scale and transect walks. The study drew participants from Groblersdal and Matatiele areas of Mpumalanga and Eastern Cape, respectively. Males aged over 60 years dominated smallholder dairy farming. However, women participation was enhanced by the Heifer project which greatly improved their involvement in dairy farming. Youth participation was very low. Most of the farmers were making losses and the viability of their dairy enterprises was low due to lack of entrepreneurial skills coupled with other production constraints. Young farmers, female farmers and farmers who were employed elsewhere other than their dairy enterprise were less likely to possess the essential entrepreneurial attributes for profitable and viable dairy enterprises. Emerging farmers could be assisted to progress to commercial dairy farming since they have already progressed past subsistence farming, incorporating their IKS and are showing some entrepreneurial attributes. However, communal farmers may be a difficult group to progress to commercial farming given the current levels of production which are failing to meet household consumption, are not exploiting IKS opportunities available and have poor entrepreneurial attributes.