Meet Thembi Nomkala. Thembi has been employed by the Cape of Good Hope SPCA for 21 strong years. First starting off as a kennel assistant in 2002, Thembi has worked his way to becoming an integral part of our team and is now a field educational officer running our ‘Compassion in Farming’ programme.
Thembi’s compassion for animals and ability to communicate and interact with people saw a rise in adoptions when he joined the Cape of Good Hope SPCA as a Kennel Assistant.
He later branched out into the SPCA’s Education Department, where he assisted with the Ani-Pals education programme and more recently, Compassion in Farming.
We recently sat down with Thembi to find out a little more about his journey at the Cape of Good Hope SPCA.
Can you tell us a little about your background and when you started working for the CoGH SPCA?
I am originally from the Eastern Cape, and I have a background in farming. Joining the SPCA with my farming knowledge has helped me a great deal because I have experience in caring for animals, and I understand the challenges that people face when caring for livestock and animals. I have decided to use my compassion for animals to work for an organisation that focuses on the welfare of animals. I started working for Cape of Good Hope SPCA on the 29th of April 2002 as a kennel assistant in the adoption centre, where I was responsible for feeding, cleaning and placing puppies up for adoption.
From there, I progressed to becoming an adoption supervisor and, shortly thereafter, moved into the education department and worked on the Ani-Pals programme and I am now a field education officer for our Compassion in Farming Project.
How and when in your journey with the CoGH SPCA did you move into Compassion in Farming?
As part of the education department, one of the campaigns we focused on was mass sterilisations in impoverished communities, whereby we not only sterilised animals but also educated the public on basic animal care. Upon doing these mass sterilisation projects, we noticed that we were mostly focusing on domestic animals and not farm animals. These areas had a lot of emerging farmers with little to no knowledge about farming. As someone who has a passion for farm animals, this did not sit well with me. After realising the need to address this problem, we wrote a proposal to an overseas charity for funding for a project to educate emerging farmers. The overseas charity accepted our proposal and flew in from Germany to see these farmers that we were concerned about, and developed a programme to address the need for basic education on farm animals – which we now call the Compassion in Farming Project.
In 2018, the Welttierschutzgesellschaft e.V. (WTG) funded our Compassion in Farming Project and are still funding this project to date. The project is based in the Emfuleni and Ithemba farms informal areas.
Please elaborate on how you educate farmers with this programme and what a typical day looks like for you.
I work directly with farmers to educate them on the curriculum and help them with practical ways about
the basic needs of farm animals,
the importance of fresh water,
bio-security measures to prevent the spread of diseases,
acceptable living conditions,
how to dispense the right medication give to their animals,
explaining the dangers of dispensing expired medication to farm animals,
how to identify and monitor sicknesses, and
how to transport the farm animals to avoid injuries.
All of these are done with the assistance of an Animal Health Technician and when necessary, a veterinarian.
Often, animal cruelty stems from a lack of education. How has educating these farmers helped within the communities you work in?
When I started working on these farms there were a lot of animals with physical injuries and more often than not, their pigs and cattle had access to little to no water in hot conditions, and they were fed scrap foods that the farmers were able to afford.
Since we have started teaching farmers about basic animal care, there has been a drastic shift in how they now care for their pigs and cattle – they have not looked back since!
What are the challenges and rewards of being a field educational officer?
The language barrier has been a challenge and helping farmers understand that change is necessary for the wellbeing of their pigs and cattle – in particular providing fresh food and water, cleaning up after their animals, changing their bedding etc – they now see the benefits of the programme and willingly adhere to these conditions.
To date, how many farmers have you helped?
180 farmers from Emfuleni and Ithemba farms have been assisted and educated through our programme.
Over the course of your journey, what has been your most memorable moment?
In 2020, we were faced with the unfortunate African Swine Fever, which is a deadly disease amongst pigs. Most farmers lost their pigs due to this. We introduced strict Bio-Security measures (most of which these farmers had no idea about) to prevent the disease from spreading from one farm to another. When the farmers lost most of their pigs, we introduced gardening workshops – something new and less costly to maintain.
To date, we have 17 successful gardening farmers who are passionate about vegetable gardening and are benefiting from subsistence farming.
“I would personally like to thank the Cape of Good Hope SPCA and WTG as they have given me the platform to be able to combine my passion for education, farming, and animal welfare to help numerous people in various communities – the change we have managed to bring to the livelihood of these animals and people are certainly an invaluable price on success,” says Thembi.
A little more about ‘Compassion in Farming’ programme.
The Welttierschutzgesellschaft e.V. (WTG), a registered German non-profit organisation based in Berlin has partnered with the Cape of Good Hope SPCA.
They aim at improving the situation for animals in the long term by providing veterinary care, supporting animal sanctuaries and of course, through our educational work. WTG cooperates with local partner organisations and involves the people who are directly concerned.
Their vision is a world in which animals are appreciated by people, and treated with respect according to their needs.