Information needs for livestock keepers of the Dlangubo village in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa: the role of extension officers and libraries

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In South Africa, livestock keeping is the dominant industry in the agricultural sector. It contributes 49% of agricultural output and enables South Africa to produce 85% of its own meat requirements. It is apparent that livestock is an important asset in the lives of the people globally hence the author is of the view that libraries and extension officers need to play a critical role in ensuring that they remain relevant to the information needs of the livestock keepers especially women as that will help them sustain good socio-economic living conditions. This paper is informed by the findings of the study which was conducted in the village called Dlangubo in South Africa. It was done at a critical time when agricultural farming was affected by drought. Domesticated animals were dying in numbers; artificial dams dried out; grazing lands also dried out and there was no animal feed. In addition the extension officer from the Department of Agriculture (DA) was deployed to a remote area which was difficult for the livestock keepers to reach as the majority of them are pensioners and unemployed. The sampled participants indicated that the extension officer helped in treating various ailments that affected their livestock especially cattle as traditional medicines were gradually disintegrating due to drought. Although they still had knowledge about traditional plants and the types of ailments they cured but it was apparent that modern medicine or animal primary health care services were replacing the traditional knowledge. Therefore the aim of this study is to explore the role that libraries and extension officers can play in order to make themselves relevant to the identified needs of this community. What sustainable intervention programmes can be introduced in order to help the villagers transform their indigenous knowledge into resources for sustainable development and thus reduce poverty; hunger; diseases and unemployment in the area of study. Qualitative approach and grounded theory method were used in this study. Data collection methods included: focus groups; semi-structured interviews; observation including participative method. The basic principles of grounded theory and NVivo software programme also helped in the data analysis of this study.