Domestic Animal Farming in the Fransfontein Area

(Titus Kaumunika)


Domestic animal farming is a common feature in the Fransfontein area. Our grand-grandparents kept domestic animals and by farming with domestic animals, many community-members make a living and are able to cover their daily-needs.

Domestic Animals in Fransfontein

In the Fransfontein area the main domestic animals are: cattle, goats, sheep, horses, donkeys, chickens and dogs, which play a very important role in the daily life of the farmer. There are many reasons why the different animals are kept by the farmers.


The cow can be sold dead or alive to community-members, on local street-markets or on auctions. Money derived from this is used to cover the family’s daily needs, such as paying school-fees, buying food, clothes or vehicles and for transport costs. The money can also be used to pay debts. Income generated though selling a cow is also used to pay ”lobola”, bridewealth, during weddings.
Fig 1: Boy milking cow
The meat of the cow is eaten during weddings, funerals and other types of celebrations.
Most of the animals that produce milk are usually milked by hand. The milk is then put in cans and pot-belly shaped containers called “calabashes” and then made into dairy-products. A calabash is a traditional container wherein milk is stored so as to become sour. Milk that becomes sour in such a way is called “âu-dai” in Khoekhoe and “omaere” in Herero. After the milk has been poured into the calabash, the calabash is shaken until thick cream comes out of it. This cream is called “orueru” in Herero and “!aopeb” in Khoekhoe. This cream is then cooked. The fat out of the cream is called “omazeuozongombe” in Herero and “goma-sam” in Khoekhoe. All of the above-mentioned products are eaten in combination with porridge, which is the stable food of the community. These products are also sold on the street markets.
The skin of the animal is dried and covered with salt. Dried and wet skins are sold to the shops. Leather-products are made out of the skin. Mixed with water, sand and clay, the cow-dung is used as a local type of building material similar to cement. Cow dung is only used for houses that are built with sticks. This process is called “okuromba” in Herero and “nao” or “#hau” in Khoekhoe. The dung is also used as fuel for making a fire, or to make smoke when collecting honey.

Goats and Sheep

Fig 2: Goats
As with the cattle goats are sold at auctions and street-markets. The income derived from this is also used for the basic needs of the household. However, due to their bigger size, cattle are more expensive than goats. Goats are also milked by hand, the milk is then put into calabashes, made into dairy products and eaten with porridge. The skin is dried-out or sold wet to shops. The skin is woven soft to make it into what is called in Herero “otjivereko” and “//hanîb” in Khoekhoe. The //hanîb or otjivereko is used to carry babies on the back. Ornamented skins are sold as house decorations.
The dung of the goat is commonly used by boiling it in water, filtering it, and drinking a cup-full three times a day when suffering from chickenpox. In Herero chickenpox is called “otjikoroha” and in Khoekhoe “purus”. Sheep are used in very similar ways.

Horses and Donkeys

Horses are mainly used for transport, whether as horse riding or in front of a cart locally referred to as donkey-cart. The horse is also used for herding and searching for other domestic animals that might have gotten lost. A minority of the local population also eats horse meat, but this is not common. The donkey is the most commonly used method of transport in our area. The meat of the donkey is very popular in our community.

Dogs and Chickens

As the saying goes: “The dog is man’s best friend”. This is also true for the community of Fransfontein. In four out of five houses one will find a dog. Dogs are used for many purposes: they must look after the house, they must look after the other animals, and they are used to hunt.
Chickens are kept, most importantly, for breeding eggs, and for their meat.

Problems with Domestic Animals

Farmers have to face many problems regarding their animals. Following are some of the major problems that these farmers have to overcome.
Wild animals are a common threat, especially to small livestock farmers. They kill the animals, and then, to the farmer’s dismay, they will not finish the whole carcass, but only eat part of the animal and leave more than half of the carcass lying in the open field. In the Fransfontein area, jackals and wild-cats are the most common predators.
Stock theft is another threat to the development of the local farmer. Thieves steal the animals and then either sell it to other farmers or take the meat for themselves. In some cases, the thieves are caught. The case is then brought to the local headmen who will call a special court to deal with these cases. If the suspect is found guilty of the crime, he/she must pay back his guilt. If it is one cow that has been stolen, two cows have to be paid back, if one goat has been stolen, five goats should be returned etc.. The concrete numbers also depend on the type of agreement between the suspect and the victim. If the headmen cannot solve the case it will be handled by the police. Further causes for animal losses are lightning and poisonous plants, which have no cure.
Diseases are another central problem for the local farmer. Table 5 lists local treatments to common diseases that affect the various animals.

Disease / Symptom(s) Local Cure
Cattle madness (when cows get crazy and just run around profusely) Burned with a hot iron
Cattle’s front legs are stiff Burn both feet with hot iron, until it becomes red.
Calf is born with big front teeth and is unable to drink. Pull the teeth out, or feed with a bottle
Goats or sheep don’t want to milk feed their young Rub the young animal’s nose against the mother’s female organs
Goats run around as if becoming mad Pour petrol between its legs
If the afterbirth doesn't want to fall off Tie a rope around an average stone, then mix ash and water plus paraffin in one liter water, then pour it in the anus of the cow.
Table 5: Local treatments of animal diseases

Although they also have their differences the people of Fransfontein, whether they are Herero, Nama or Damara, have one thing in common: farming to make a living.

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