Members of the Extended Interim Executive Council of the International Trypanotolerance Centre (ITC) are currently on a two-day meeting at the Paradise Suites Hotel to discuss the future perspectives of ITC in the context of a strategic plan.
During the two-day meeting, officials are also expected to deliberate on issues related to strategy presentation on the ITC vision, mission, principles of engagement, strategy implementation, regional reach activities, strategy launch and planning launch of the new centre among other issues.
Declaring the meeting open, Solomon Owens, the minister of Agriculture, reminded the gathering about the establishment of the International Trypanotolerance Centre in 1985 as an international institution with a regional mandate by an Act of Parliament of The Gambia. He said the initiative and processes that led to an established and functional ITC was driven and funded by a consortium of development partners with the mandate of carrying out studies on all aspects of trypanotolerance for the benefit of all the countries that have trypanotolerant cattle.
According to Minister Owens, ITC successfully addressed this mandate and expanded one that evolved from the interesting outputs and outcomes. He said the mandate urged the institution to go beyond working to unravel the phenomenon of trypanotolerance exhibited by a number of ruminant livestock breeds such as the N'Dama cattle and the Djalonke goats and sheep.
He said that while ITC enjoyed generous support and collaboration with a variety of development partners, in 2005 the Centre started experiencing a gradual dis-interest and loss of partners. He thanked the delegates for their positive response to the Interim Executive Council, saying it will help finalise part of the revitalisation process as the government of The Gambia which has more or less played the role of donor of last resort over the last four years fully supports these revitalisation efforts.
The Agric minister commended the present ITC management and staff for taking the wise decision to involve its current and potential stakeholders and partners, saying government will as an important stakeholder, continue to contribute to this final discussion and eventual approval of the strategic plan.
Yemi Akinbamijo, chair, ITC Council, thanked the government and people of The Gambia for the wonderful support to the Centre during the very difficult phase in the life of ITC. He further thanked the Gambia government for making sure that ITC continues to sustain their maintenance requirements during the last five years.
He said in their quest to attain the laudable goal of restoring livestock R and D in its rightful place, it is important to align themselves with the politically endorsed comprehensive African agricultural development programme.
Dr Babou Ousman Jobe, the acting director general of ITC, lamented that there is growing disparity between population growth and the food production capacity of the developing world, especially of countries in sub-Saharan Africa where The Gambia is located. As a result of this, he said, food supplies per capita are decreasing. He added that the role of livestock becomes all the more important, because as living standards rise, so does consumption of livestock products.
He added: "Notwithstanding the socio-economic role, the contributions of the livestock sector to food and nutrition security, poverty reduction and environmental protection in our space remain far below potential. To mitigate this situation and increase livestock productivity to the level needed, there is need for accelerated adoption of the most-promising available technologies so as to support immediate improvement of production by linking research and extension systems to producers more efficiently and as well technology delivery systems that quickly bring innovations to farmers and agribusiness."