The Ministry of Agriculture has declared an animal health emergency following laboratory confirmation of an outbreak of Contagious Bovine Pleuropneumonia (CBPP) in Central River and Upper River Regions and the subsequent follow-up assessment mission to the country by the Crises Management Centre-Animal Health of the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO).
According to experts, Contagious Bovine Pleuropneumonia is infectious, highly contagious and one of the most important trans-boundary cattle diseases. This disease is considered as the biggest threat to cattle production in sub-Saharan Africa on which so many people are dependent for their livelihoods.
This situation is further aggravated by the fact that the N'Dama Cattle, the predominant breed of cattle in The Gambia, is known to be highly susceptible to CBPP. Losses in cattle in Niamina Dankunku, Central River Region, the most seriously affected district in the country where the disease was first reported and confirmed in August 2012, is reported within the range of 40-50% mortality.
Cognizant that there exist a vast majority of households in the country that depend on cattle for their daily livelihoods, we join the government to appeal to partners and friends to aid the country in battling this animal health problem.
The report of the Agriculture Ministry is alarming and makes intervention to address the situation urgent. According to the Ministry, CBPP will continue to spread throughout The Gambia (and beyond) unless control measures are taken. The disease has the potential to cause the deaths of upwards of 200, 000 heads of cattle in The Gambia (based on the 2011 Agricultural census estimating cattle population at 390, 000 heads).
The Ministry further said the monetary value of these losses is equivalent to nearly D2 billion. Re-establishment of the lost herds to current numbers is only practicable by breeding and could take nearly a decade. The unique Trypanotolerance genetic value of N'Dama cattle may be put at risk by CBPP.
We however wish to reiterate that as the executive continues to find solutions to our common plight, organisations and partners should come forward to help the country save its animal (cattle) breed.
This is a time for great compassion and generosity and no one NGO, civil society and the international community, can afford to be left out. As a matter of fact, without compassion this world would be a hard and very lonely place to live in. The spirit of compassion gets all of us connected; thus hard and difficult times become much easier, because people understand and care about the welfare of others.
Therefore, by complementing the government to overcome this animal health crisis, you are in effect helping yourself, as sustainable livelihood is the hallmark of development.