By Isatou Jawara
“As Minister of Agriculture I will create an enabling environment to transform the livestock sector into a vibrant commercial enterprise that would respond to the needs and aspirations of the Gambian people in the fight against poverty, hunger and malnutrition,” OJ said, the minister of Agriculture, talking to The Standard at the National Livestock show and sales.
“The demand for livestock and livestock products will increase twice by 2030 and livestock products will increase twice by 2030 and eight fold by 2050 due to increase in population and incomes. The right policies are required to address the slow growth of the sector due to low level of public and private investments.
“The livestock sub-sector contributes about 10% to the national GDP and 40% to the overall agriculture GDP.Livestock rearing is one of the main economic activities on which the poorest of our population depend on for food and income generation. It also serves as essential shock absorbers against vulnerability and risk related to climate change for farmers who are highly dependent on rain-fed agriculture for their livelihoods.
“The capacity of livestock production systems to provide protein rich food, generate income and employment reduce vulnerabilities and sustain livelihoods opportunities makes them an appealing vehicle for pro poor development,” he noted.
He said livestock is a key element in raising farm productivity and it would be difficult to conceive the idea of sustaining increased production of small holder farmers without paying sufficient attention to livestock development.
“The small ruminant population of The Gambia is estimated at 574,000 heads comprising of 200,000 sheep and 374,000 goats with an average off take of 23%.Women play a major role in small ruminant production, representing 52% of the owners of sheep, 67% of the owners of goats and 43% of the owners of both sheep and goats.
“Sheep fattening offers a reasonable livelihood option for rural livestock farmers as it provides a stable and attractive additional source of income for small and marginal farmers without affecting their main occupation. The power of knowledge and value chains with regards to breeding and fattening is one of the success stories of livestock extension services that goes across hedges and fields from farmer to farmer providing opportunities for promoting gender equality.
“To unlock the potential of the livestock sector and sustainably manage it for the socio economic development of our citizenry issues of bushfires grazing land, stock routes, deforestation and land tenure need to be addressed.
“Commercial livestock production system provides opportunities for women and youths to access development opportunities, resources, skills and income. This will empower them in decision making at the community, family and household level,” he added.