By Omar Bah
The Ministry of Agriculture in partnership with FAO has Wednesday scrutinized and validated the country’s first livestock census draft in 23 years.
The census, which was conducted by the department of livestock through the D17M FAO funded technical cooperation programme, TCP highlighted in details the situation and number of livestock in the country.
The census, involved a country-wide enumeration of 5 livestock species (cattle, sheep, goat, pig and poultry) and 5 other items of national interest i.e. horses, donkeys and mules, ducks, guinea fowls and rabbits.
The exercise reported: 292,837 cattle, 172,662 sheep, 328,336 goats, pigs, 14, 830, and poultry, 937,951, horse, 22,070 and donkeys, 65,650.
The census, according to livestock experts, is required to enable policy makers and institutions engaged in livestock and livestock related activities to plan, follow-up and prepare appropriate and timely responses to issues affecting the development of the livestock subsector.
The census is also projected to promote the formulation of livestock policies and regulations, reduce disease incidence, increase production and access to markets.
In his opening remarks, the Minister of Agriculture Omar Jallow said funding the census is just few among FAO’s numerous contributions to complement the efforts of the Government of The Gambia in its drive to become self-sufficient in food through agricultural transformation and increased productivity.
“As 60% of the rural population are involved in livestock rearing, the sub-sector will mostly and certainly remain a major source of their livelihoods. Livestock has been shown to provide a practical and effective first-step in alleviating rural poverty,” he added.
He said for centuries livestock has been an integral part of small rural households and will continue to be for the foreseeable future.
“In the world today, livestock contributes to the sustainable livelihoods and security of more than 800 million poor smallholders: first as natural capital providing meat, financial capital and satisfy traditional and festival needs, wealth, prestige, identity, respect, dowry, etc,” he said.
He said an attempt to conduct a National Livestock Census in 2003 to replace the 1993 Census failed due to lack of resources, “but mainly due to the non-commitment of the then Government to support the livestock sub-sector.”
Meanwhile, the FAO country rep Perpetua Katepa-Kalala in her brief but reassuring remarks at the opening ceremony, said the FAO is deeply committed to helping countries strengthen their statistical systems to improve the timeliness and quality of their data.
“And it will continue to do so through the SDG process. FAO is the leading agency in agricultural statistics and hence supports member countries to develop methodologies and standards for data collection and develop statistical systems as well as disseminates food and agricultural statistics globally,” she said.
In the Gambia, she said livestock contributes significantly to the national economy and livelihood of the population, “With the potentials to make significant contributions to the improvement of food security.”
“In all, the livestock sector contributes about 30% of the agricultural GDP and about 10% to the national GDP,” she explained.
She said the livestock sector has the potential to provide even more opportunities for employment and income generation as well as meeting the demand for animal and animal products for rural population.
“There is increased awareness of the important role of livestock in The Gambian economy as different livestock species are used as food, wealth and security as well as land cultivation, transportation of goods and people in rural areas, provides manure for fuel and crop production,” she added.
She said the absence of reliable and accurate data adversely affects the ability to formulate effective policies, regulations and decisions.
“Key among these is investment decisions in the sector by private and public sector as well as other stakeholders such as farmer organisations,” she said.
She said the project also fits with the FAO country programming framework, priority 1 which is “Enhanced enabling environment and capacity development increased, sustainable and diversified agriculture and fisheries production and nutrition,” she added.