Utilisation of indigenous knowledge to control ticks in goats: a case of KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa

Abstract

Local indigenous knowledge (IK) informs decision-making about fundamental aspects of life. The inclusion of indigenous knowledge is increasingly becoming a topical subject to enhance livestock veterinary care. The objective of the current study was to explore the extent of utilisation of indigenous knowledge to control ticks in goats. There was an association (P < 0.05) between the use of IK and gender, with males using IK (76.58%) more than females. The association between age distribution and IK use was (P < 0.05); however, farmers above the age of 50 years were using IK more than all group ages. Farmers ranked the purposes of using IK differently (P < 0.05). Ectoparasites were ranked as the most important constraint limiting goat productivity. Ticks were ranked as the most important external parasites. Amblyomma tick species were ranked as the most important amongst the tick species, followed by Rhipicephalus evertsi evertsi ticks. A significant population of farmers (80.7%) are dependent on the use of tick sprays, whereas others used injections (3.3%). Cissus quadrangularis L. (Inhlashwana) was singled out as the most used ethno-veterinary plant to control ticks with a frequency of (64%), followed by Gomphocarpus physocarpus E. Mey (Uphehlacwathi) (55.9%). The probability of keeping goats in wet rangelands (P < 0.05) was 3.04 times more likely to influence the extent of IK use compared to their contemporaries in the dry rangeland. Male farmers keeping goats (P < 0.01) were 2.95 more likely to influence the extent of use of IK than females. The type of rangeland, gender, age, residing on farm and also having the herbalist in the locality were the most common factors that influenced the extent of IK utilisation.

Introduction

It is expected that temperatures will increase in Southern Africa due to climate change by the year 2050 (Dzama and Marandure 2016). Livestock agriculture will be severely affected. Many countries in Southern Africa in 2015 were declared national drought disasters in the same year. In South Africa, eight out of nine provinces were declared partial drought emergencies. During this period, massive livestock failures occurred with about 643,000 cattle reduction, thus creating opportunities for goat production (Dzama and Marandure 2016). Goats are likely to take precedence as an alternative to cattle due to their adaptive characteristics to hot and dry environments. Goats play a fundamental role in the livelihoods of households. They support food security (Mdletshe et al. 2018; Mseleku et al. 2019) and enable easier access to cash flows. Goats possess the ability to use low-quality forages and browse more efficiently.

Goats have minimal input requirements, thus making them a species of choice for resource-limited households, who are mostly governed by women (Durawo et al. 2017). Goats have small body sizes, which enable easier handling to women. In the tropics and sub-tropics, goat farmers are faced with many challenges of diseases, gastrointestinal and external parasites that limit goat productivity. Amongst external parasites, ticks rank first (Nyahangare et al. 2015; Sanhokwe et al. 2016). Ticks reduce fertility, cause skin irritation and suck blood. Ticks also transmit tick-borne diseases with heartwater being severely debilitating in goats. Ticks have developed resistance against ectoparasiticides, which also have negative environmental impacts (Adenubi et al. 2016).

Indigenous knowledge (IK) can be broadly defined as the knowledge that a community gains over generations to achieve stable livelihoods. For centuries, communities have relied on IK for sustainable veterinary care. The IK, however, remains suppressed and not promoted to improve livelihoods of the resource-poor farmers. The young generation associate the knowledge with witchcraft and backwardness. Hence, it is difficult for them to share the knowledge with the younger generation. Opportunities for complementing conventional knowledge with IK are great. To date, the control of ticks in cattle relies on the repeated and often infrequent use of acaricides and pour on. Goats are however less prioritized, yet in natural rangelands, these two species graze together and some tick species, though found in cattle, complete their life cycle on goats, e.g. Rhipicephalus microplus (Nyangiwe and Horak 2007). There are no dipping systems for goats. There is a need to understand the extent of utilisation of IK amongst goat keepers. The use of IK is sustainable and practically sound because it is locally available, easy to produce and process. Indigenous knowledge used, however, differs with regions, ethnic groups, agro ecological zones, socioeconomic status and cultural values. These differences, therefore, should be understood prior to initiation of sustainable development of IK.

The Department of Science and Technology (DST) in South Africa has developed an indigenous knowledge systems (IKS) policy, which aims to stimulate and strengthen the contribution of IK to social and economic development. The use of IK reduces the development of resistance because there is usually a mixture of different active ingredients with differing mechanisms of action (Habeeb 2010). Investigating the extent of utilization of IK provides a productive context for activities designed to help the communities. The findings from the study will further enhance and provide the basis for further research that will present an opportunity to establish cost-effective, user-friendly and sustainable control strategies for ticks. The objective of the current study was to determine factors influencing the extent of use of IK to control ticks.

Materials and methods

Ethical clearance consideration

The rights, religions, culture and dignity of respondents were respected. The respondents were assured that no confidential information would be disclosed, and they had a right to stop the interview whenever they did not feel comfortable. The experimental procedures were performed according to the written ethical guidelines specified by the Certification of Authorization to Experiment on Living Humans provided by the Social Sciences—Humanities & Social Sciences Research Ethics Committee (Reference No: HSS/0852/017).

Study site

The study was conducted at Jozini municipality of uMkhanyakude district in the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa. Jozini municipality, located 27°24′ 06.9′S; 32°11′48.6E, and covers about 3082 km2, with an altitude ranging from 80 to 1900 m above sea level. Jozini experiences subtropical climate, with an average annual rainfall of 600 mm. Although the area receives rainfall throughout the year, most rains are received between January and March, with the months of June and July being dry and cool.

Highest mean monthly temperature is recorded in January (30 °C) and lowest in July (11 °C). Average daily maximum and minimum temperatures at Jozini 20 °C and 10 °C, respectively. The vegetation type in the area is mainly coastal sand-veld, bush-veld and foothill wooded grasslands (Morgenthal et al. 2006). Common agricultural practices in the district include production of field crops, vegetables and raising livestock extensively.

Sampling of households

A list of farmers that kept goats from Jozini community were compiled with the assistance from extension officers and community livestock keepers. Eight communities were visited across the Jozini area namely: Biva, Nyawushane, Mkhonjeni, Gedleza, Mkhayane, Makhonyeni, MaMfene and Madonela. The communities were classified according to wet and dry rangelands. The communities were randomly selected amongst communities active in goat production. In each community, scheduled meetings with chiefs and local headmen were arranged to gain access to communities.

The selection of households was based on the willingness of farmers to participate in the study. A structured questionnaire was administered to 300 households who kept goats. Enumerators were obtained from the local villages to ensure that farmers are comfortable to co-operate during the study. The questionnaire was pre-tested for accuracy and clarity of questions.

Data collection

Data were collected through interviews using structured questionnaires. Questionnaires were administered in the local vernacular isiZulu. Data collected included household demographics, goat production constraints, health status of goat and indigenous practices and methods used by farmers to control and treat tick infestations. Reasons of using IK, source of knowledge and preservation of IK were also captured. In addition, farmers were requested to define the terms effective, readily available, affordability and easier to use as they are consistently in the field of IK.

Statistical analyses

All data were analysed using SAS (2013) software. The PROC FREQ of SAS procedure for chi-square was used to compute the association between household demographics, livestock herd sizes and indigenous knowledge use. Mean rank scores for the reasons of using IK, goat production constraints, common parasites and common tick species in the study site were determined using general linear model (GLM). An ordinal logistic regression (PROC LOGISTIC) was used to predict the odds ratios of the extent of use of IK to control ticks. The variables fitted in the logit model included gender of the household farmer, age, educational status, rangeland type, livestock training, employment status, presence of herbalist in the area. The following logit model used was:

$$ \mathrm{Ln}\ \left[\mathrm{P}/1\hbox{--} \mathrm{P}\right]=\upbeta 0+\upbeta 1\mathrm{X}1+\upbeta 2\mathrm{X}2+\upbeta 3\mathrm{X}3+\dots \upbeta \mathrm{tXt}+\upvarepsilon $$

where P is the probability of group using indigenous knowledge, [P 1−P] is the odds of the group using indigenous knowledge, β0 is the intercept, β1…βt are the regression coefficients of predictors, X1…Xt are the predictor variables, and ε is the random residual error.

When computed for each predictor (β1…βt), the odds ratio for group using indigenous knowledge.

Results

Household demographics of respondents and use of indigenous knowledge

The association between household characteristics and socio-economic status of farmers with IK is shown in Table 1. There was an association (P < 0.05) between the use of IK and gender; men using IK were (77%) more than women not using IK to control ticks in goats. The association between the use of IK and residing on farm was P < 0.05. Farmers residing on farm used IK more than farmers not residing on farm amongst the households. There was an association (P < 0.05) between livestock training and IK use. Farmers that received livestock training were less likely to use IK than their counterparts who did not received livestock training.

Table 1 Household demographics of respondents and association with use of indigenous knowledge

There was a significant association between age distribution and IK use (P < 0.05); however, farmers aged above 50 years were using IK more than all group ages. The association between IK use and educational status was not significant (P > 0.05); however, those who had attended tertiary level were less likely to use IK to control ticks. There was a significant association between IK use and sources of income (P < 0.05). Households receiving government grant (38%) were using IK more.

Livestock species ownership and IK use

Most households owned different types of livestock species, which consisted mainly of cattle, goats, sheep, chickens and pigs. The goat flock composition was similar; therefore, it was not included in the analysis, and it consisted of kids, weaners, does and bucks. Table 2 shows the association between livestock ownership and IK use. There was no association between the use of IK and cattle, sheep and, chicken ownership (P > 0.05), although households that kept cattle less than 30 were using IK more than those with larger herd sizes. The association between IK use and goat ownership was significant (P > 0.05). Households owning more than 30 goats were using IK more than those with less flock sizes.

Table 2 Livestock herd sizes and association with the use of IK

Constraints to goat production

Mean rank scores of goat production constraints in the study site are shown in Fig. 1. Ectoparasites were ranked as the highest constraint limiting goat productivity. Diseases were ranked the second followed by the gastrointestinal parasites ranking the third. Feed shortages were ranked the sixth, with inbreeding ranking the last. The most common parasites constraining to goat productivity are shown in Fig. 2. Farmers ranked ticks as the most important common parasites affecting goat productivity. Tapeworms were ranked the second and roundworms third affecting goats (Fig. 2). Liver fluke was ranked the fourth amongst the constraints. Figure 3 shows the most important tick species in the study site. Amblyomma tick species were ranked as the most important amongst the tick species, followed by Rhipicephalus evertsi evertsi ticks and Rhipicephalus appendiculatus in that chronological order.

Fig. 1
figure1

Mean rank scores of goat production constraints across the study site (n = 300)

Fig. 2
figure2

Common parasites of goats in the study site

Fig. 3
figure3

Common tick species of goats in the study site

Reasons for IK use and sources of information

Table 3 shows the ranking of major reasons of using IK. As expected, farmers ranked the purposes of using IK differently (P < 0.05). Farmers were asked to define the reasons of using IK according to their level of understanding. The most important purpose of using IK was that it is effective. Farmers ranked readily available the second, with easier to use ranking the third. Affordability was ranked the last amongst the reasons of using IK. Figure 4 shows the sources of IK. A significant percentage (49%) of respondents reported grandfathers to be highest source of IK. About 40% of farmers reported to source the IK from the herbalists a paltry, with 3% reporting to source the knowledge from extension services.

Table 3 The most frequently mentioned reasons of using indigenous knowledge
Fig. 4
figure4

Sources of indigenous knowledge in the study site

Comparison between IK and CK on tick control

Table 4 shows the comparison between indigenous and conventional knowledge on tick control. Farmers used both IK and conventional knowledge to control ticks. Of those who use conventional acaricides was a significant population of farmers (81%) dependent on the use of tick sprays, when others used injections (3%). Other farmers depended on the use of IK where ethno-veterinary plants are employed to control ticks. The majority of farmers used Cissus quadrangularis L. (Inhlashwana) (61%) and Gomphocarpus physocarpus E. Mey (Uphehlacwathi) (38%) in the control of ticks (Table 4). In addition, other farmers used Maytenus acuminata (L.f.) Loes (Ingwavuma) (22%), Stapelia gigantea N.E. Br. (Uzililo) (7%) and Portulaca pilosa L.(Ushisizwe) (4%). Table 5 shows the documented indigenous plants used to control ticks.

Table 4 Comparison of indigenous and conventional knowledge on tick control
Table 5 Documented indigenous plants used to control ticks

Figure 5 shows the most common acaricidal plants by frequency of mention. Six important ethno-veterinary plants were reported to be used to control ticks. Cissus quadrangularis (Inhlashwana) was singled out as the most used ethno-veterinary plant to control ticks with a frequency of (64%), followed by Gomphocarpus physocarpus (Uphehlacwathi) (56%) and Maytenus acuminata (Ingwavuma) (45%) and Stapelia gigantea (Uzililo) (44%) having almost similar frequency.

Fig. 5
figure5

The most common acaricidal plants by frequency of mention (N = 300)

Odds ratio estimates of the extent of use of indigenous knowledge to control ticks

The odds ratio estimates for the extent of use of IK are depicted in Table 6. The probability of keeping goats in wet rangelands (P < 0.05) was 3.04 times more likely to influence the extent of IK use compared to their contemporaries in the dry rangeland. Male farmers keeping goats (P < 0.01) were 2.95 times more likely to influence the extent use of IK than females. Farmers residing on farm were 1.24 times more likely to influence the use of IK when compared to farmers that were not residing on farm (P < 0.05). Farmers that are not formally educated (P > 0.05) were 1.22 times more likely to influence the extent of use of IK when compared to the formally educated farmers.

Table 6 Odds ratio estimates, lower and upper confidence interval (CI) of the extent of use of IK to control ticks

Farmers older than 55 years were 2.89 more likely to influence the extent of use of IK compared to farmers less 30 years who were mostly young farmers. The likelihood of having the presence of herbalist in the particular rangeland was 3.64 more likely to influence the use of IK (P < 0.05). Farmers that did not receive formal livestock training were 1.39 more likely to influence the extent of IK use than those that received training. Unemployment was 1.45 more likely to influence IK use (P > 0.05).

Discussion

Despite the damage caused by ticks on goat productivity, little, if any effort, has been made to control ticks. Due to scarcity of veterinary services in many developing countries, farmers depend on IK to control ticks in goats (Byaruhanga et al. 2015). Adequate understanding of the extent of use of IK can assist in the development of local people through their participation and interaction in developmental programmes. The observed association between IK use and gender, with a larger percentage of men using IK, could be influenced by that men are traditional heads of households and usually make decisions about livestock veterinary care including goats. Another probable explanation could be that men are usually responsible for herding of livestock from a younger age. As a result, they grow up making it their responsibility to manage goats (Tariq et al. 2014). In most rural households, culture prohibits women from entering the kraals, making it difficult for them to meaningfully contribute to livestock management.

The observed finding that most users of IK were residing on farm could possibly indicate that such farmers could possess more knowledge than those who stay in urban centres, consequently spending more time ensuring that their goats are in good health. The finding that farmers that received formal livestock training were less likely to use IK was expected since extension services promote the use of commercial acaricides. The observed common use of IK among the elderly farmers could also be a reflection of poverty, high cost of acaricides and the shunning of IK by the youth (Sanhokwe et al. 2016). There is need for extension officers, non-governmental organisations and policymakers to involve IK custodians in goat development programmes. Communal areas of sub-Saharan Africa are characterised with high levels of poverty and unemployment (Chimonyo et al. 2005; Mdletshe et al. 2018).

The perception that farmers ranked effectiveness of IK as the major reason for using it is contrary to Gumbochuma et al. (2013) who reported that farmers perceive the efficacy of indigenous practices to be low. Another important reason for using IK is that it is readily available. Since most of the IK rest within the elders within a community, it makes it convenient to access. Herbalists do not, however, readily divulge their knowledge unless they are remunerated. Extension services were the least important source of IK, which agrees with Nyahangare et al. (2015).

The ranking of ticks as the most problematic parasite could be because goats are hardly dipped in rural communities. There is a need to identify common ticks, their prevalence and loads in goats on communal rangelands to formulate and implement appropriate tick control strategies. The higher ranking of tapeworms could be due to poorly managed grazing rangelands in communal areas with higher rates of parasitic infestations. The long hours that goats spend in grazing rangelands increases the risk of exposure to infestation. The finding that Amblyomma were the most important tick species could be because of the hot, dry bush environments (Moyo and Masika 2009). A large proportion of goats have been found to be infested with adult Amblyomma and R. evertsi evertsi. Since goats are rarely dipped, they become a reservoir of different tick species. It is, therefore, paramount to include goats in any tick control programmes. The finding that farmers used conventional methods to control ticks more than IK methods could have been propelled by that extension officers have attended tertiary institutions, where they despise IK as being based on mythology.

The high odds for the production rangeland to influence the extent of use of IK could be due to varying vegetation type, climatic conditions and plant availability between the grazing rangelands. Rangeland type contributes to plant diversity and availability and subsequently plant utilisation. It is possible that farmers still have a strong cultural attachment to their beliefs, values and indigenous practices. On the other hand, it can be hypothesised that these differences can be influenced by the presence of herbalists and diviners within the areas to share the knowledge with goat farmers.

The finding that gender influenced the extent of use of IK with the odds ratio estimates in favour of men was expected. In rural households, women are not permitted to enter livestock kraals; therefore, men become dominant in IK utilisation. Men have more experience because of multiple interactions with other men during gatherings at livestock associations and dipping stations. Women hardly participate in such meetings. Most of the times, women are not allowed to go out of homes; they look after the children and perform household chores (Amsalu et al. 2017). Such paternal structures need to be considered in designing sustainable goat management programmes.

The likelihood that age of farmers influences the extent of use of IK with the odds ratio in favour of farmers above 55 years of age is not surprising. The elderly farmers value IK because of its sustainability. They are also highly esteemed by the community due to their experience of using IK (Amsalu et al. 2017). The higher odds ratio estimates in favour of herbalists to influence the extent of use of IK suggest that they are an invaluable source of knowledge to treat their goats (Luseba and Tshisikhawe 2013). The majority of herbalists pass their knowledge to the elders, sons and daughters in that order (Amsalu et al. 2017). It is important that IK is preserved and conserved before it disappears (Luseba and Van der Merwe 2006). The finding that level of formal education could influence the extent of use of IK with the odds ratio in favour of the uneducated farmers reinforces the view that Western education suppresses IK. Therefore, farmers with low formal education rely on IK as part of their daily lives.

Conclusion

In the near future, it is essential that when IK policies are implemented; factors that promote its utilisation are considered including the participation and interaction of IK custodians. It is also important that future research should focus on implementation strategies of IK in the veterinary livestock care. To improve the productivity of goats, tick control strategies should be implemented.

Availability of data and material

The datasets generated and/or analysed during the current study are not publicly available due to cooperating producer privacy and confidentiality, but are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

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Acknowledgements

The authors appreciate the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg Campus for providing the logistics needed for the study. We are grateful to the community of Jozini and livestock keepers for their contribution throughout the study. Co-operation of participants and the chairperson of Jozini Livestock Association, Mr M. Nkosi, is greatly acknowledged.

Funding

The study was funded by the National Research Foundation (NRF) of the Republic of South Africa at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (Project name: Exploring indigenous knowledge systems, GUN: 112406). The funding covered all the aspect of logistics from data collection, analysis and the writing of the manuscript.

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MVM, SZN and MC designed the study; MVM and SZN collected the data; MVM interpreted the data and wrote the manuscript. All the authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to M. Chimonyo.

Ethics declarations

The experimental procedures were performed according to the written ethical guidelines specified by the Certification of Authorization to Experiment on Living Humans provided by the Social Sciences—Humanities & Social Sciences Research Ethics Committee (Reference No: HSS/0852/017).

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Mkwanazi, M.V., Ndlela, S.Z. & Chimonyo, M. Utilisation of indigenous knowledge to control ticks in goats: a case of KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa. Trop Anim Health Prod 52, 1375–1383 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11250-019-02145-0

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Keywords

  • Diseases
  • ethno-veterinary remedies
  • sustainability
  • parasites