8 January 2013

Gambia: CRR Herders Decry Lack of Drinking Points for Their Animals

Access to water for livestock, especially cattle in the Central River Region during dry season becomes a nightmare for the roving herders. The few available natural pools used by animals for drinking virtually dry up as the dry season advances due largely to excessive heat that propel the rate of evaporation in the countryside.

Herders walk kilometers with their emaciated cattle to access enough pastures and drinking waters, a process which they described as worrisome.

Talking to one Alieu Baldeh, a renowned cattle herder from Yerroberry Kunda, better known as its subscript, YBK, cattle herding is an occupation that he inherited from his father and no amount of incentive elsewhere can make him quit the trade. Alieu believed that herding is an occupation that is traditionally and culturally entrenched in their clan since time immemorial and as Fula speaking people they derive honour and pleasure from the trade.

He however lament over the hardship they encounter during dry season in providing adequate pastures and water for their animals. "We trekked miles with our cattle during dry season to find fresh grass and clean water for our livestock. If we move further down to the river bank where enough pastures are readily available, we will be at loggerhead with rice field owners because animals will obstinately encroach on their farms", he decried.

He blamed the general weight loss and low milk production of their cattle during the dry season on poor grazing. He added that as herders their income partly depend on milk harvested from their livestock, thus its low production means less source of income for them.

Quizzed as what could be done to address this perennial problem, the seemingly determined herder responded: "We as herders need to form a formidable association in order to effectively agitate for our common interest. As the old adage goes 'united we stand divided we fall'. I unequivocally believe that with a formidable united front, we can seek audience with our respective local government authorities to find solutions to our problems. We equally pay tax and I think as taxpayers our concerns need to be put into consideration by the authorities."

Baldeh vowed to lead the campaign of forming what he called 'CRR Herders Association' with a view to effectively agitating for their common interest as herders.

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