This Column is meant to monitor and report on issues that are impeding food security in the Gambia as well as the interventions of Government and Non-governmental Organisations.
In today's edition,
we shall bring to the attention of our readers the Continuation of the Regional Project for Sustainable Management of Endemic Ruminant Livestock in West Africa (PROGEBE) report of the baseline studies carried out in it's project intervention areas namely; Kiang West, Nianija and Niamina East.
13. On market orientation, it is found that cattle are not kept for milk production and that milk sales are important for only few households. Looking at sale of cattle (live animals), it is found that a total of 41 heads of cattle were sold during the 12 months preceding the survey, which corresponds to 2.7% of the total herd size. These animals were sold by 21 households or 16% of cattle keepers. Among these households, cattle sold represent on average 17% of the herd. These results show that very few households sell animals on a regular basis, but for those who do, sale of animals is an important activity.
14. While at farm gate farmers indicated that they keep endemic breeds, livestock traders indicated that they also trade in non endemic breeds. From the surveyed market agents in local markets, the total value of livestock they sold, and the proportion of sales of ERL to total sales were calculated. Of all total value of cattle sales handled by the agents, 64% was from N'dama cattle while 36% was from exotic and other crosses. This was in contrast to the sales at household level where most of the sales were N'dama. A similar trend was observed in goats and sheep where 53.7% and 56.7% of the total sheep and goat sales were from Djallonke and WAD. The apparent discrepancies between breeds held by farmers (mostly ERL) and breeds sold by traders raise a question regarding the origin of these non endemic animals.
15. An important aspect of production management and marketing is information use and sharing. The main sources of information on livestock related issues are extension and other government offices, but livestock issues are not discussed in community groups. With regard to ERL conservation, it is found that 90% the hoiseholds participate in community groups but topics related to conservation of endemic livestock, and livestock in general, are not discussed. On the other hand, most farmers seeking information on livestock practices receive it. The majority of households focus their requests on health Issues, followed by breeding and feeding.
3.4 ERL habitat and natural resources management:
Sustainable management of the endemic ruminant livestock breeds in the project sites is inseparable from sustainable management of the natural resources (land, vegetation, water and forestry). Natural resource management includes not only sustainable models for rangeland conservation, feed and water resources management, but also broader habitat protection.
16. On land use and trends, it is found that cropland and rangeland are in abundance in Kiang West compared to the other 2 sites (Niamina East and Nianija). The practice of land fallowing is quite low in Niamina East and Nianija compared to Kiang West. In Kiang West, fallow period was reported to be about 10 years. Demographic pressure and the associated continuous cultivation of land were cited as the major cause of shortening of fallow period in Niamina East and Nianija. It is then not surprising that significant fraction of the land in Niamina East and Nianija was reported to be degraded.
17. The land cover maps for 1984 and 2009 show that in 1984 the dominant land cover was natural vegetation, covering about 63% of the land surface. In 2009 this had reduced to 52%. Agriculture in 2009 covered 41.3% of the land surface from 30.3% as mapped in 1984. The main land cover in 2009 is rain fed agriculture (29%) and there has been a major increase in rice fields. In Nianija the comparison of land use patterns showed cropped area increased by 11% from 30.3% between 1984 and 2009 while natural vegetation declined by 11% from 63%. There has been a general decline in tsetse population though there has not been any significant clearing of forest. However, there has been expansion of crop field into rangelands.
18. A major challenge is the management of bush fires. The frequency of bush fire was reported to have increased in Kiang west and Niamina east with the incidence of fires in 2008 observed to have reached 186 and 80 respectively. The incidence of uncontrolled bush fire in 2008 was eight bush fires according to MODIS (remote-sensed data). Such uncontrolled bush fire has been increasing according to remote sensing data (MODIS) and constitutes a threat to sustainable management of natural resources in the community and the habitat of endemic ruminants.
19. Local conventions and norms governing natural resource use exist but the degree of enforcement varies with different issues. Local conventions/norms governing access to land bush fire control, livestock mobility, grazing/use of crop residues by livestock, farmer-herder conflict and protected forest reportedly exist in all sites. Enforcement of these focal norms was reportedly strong except for bush fire control. Long term investment on acquired land like tree planting is not allowed. Village head and development committees were mentioned as the institutions responsible for the enforcement of the local norms in Nianija. In Nianija absence of well demarcated corridors for livestock passage was reported.
20. An increasing trend of farmer-herder conflicts was reported in the site due to poor herd management, management of village herds by hired pastoralists, increasing ownership of livestock by farmers who have no experience of livestock management, increasing proximity of crop and livestock, and absence of well demarcated corridors.
21. The practice of transhumance by the livestock owners in the project sites is not the classic type by the pastöralists in the Sahelian zone who could be away from their homesteads for 3 or 4 months with their animals in search of pasture and water. The practice of transhumance by livestock keepers in the sub-humid zone where the project sites are located only involves a short distance (often less than 30 km) and few days. Transhumance only involved a shortdistance movement and it was reported to have increased in recent years. It is driven more by protection of crops from damage by livestock than search for pasture and water Niamina East.
3,5 Key constraints to ERL in the Gambia:
The production and management of ERL systems in the
Gambia are faced with a number of constraints:
22. High mortality rates: Mortality rates of animals indicate the level of natural death (as opposed to slaughter). Mortality was listed as one of the key constraints to breeding. For cattle the mortality rate was around 20% for animals <=12 months old, and lower at 5-7% for animals> 12 months old. Mortality rates for the small ruminants were significantly greater than that for cattle at 33-45% for animals <=12 months old, and 25-54% for animals> 12 months old. The high mortality rate of cattle <= 12 months old, and small ruminants at all ages, requires addressing.
23. Lack of knowledge: In addition to mortality, key constraints to improvement of animals through breeding were "lack of capital to purchase good breeding animals, "lack of knowledge of breeding practices in general", and "lack of knowledge of how to identify good breeding animals from own herd".
24. Technical constraints include water shortage, lack of feed and diseases which were reported in all nine villages surveyed. However, some patterns of dominant biophysical constraints according to specific sites seem to emerge. Disease is the number one problem in Kiang West whereas water shortage is more acute in Nianija. Furthermore, farmers in Niamina East experience more feed shortages than farmers in other sites.
25. Access to water is limited by lack of or non- operational infrastructures (boreholes and wells), lack of water lifting devices, and salt intrusion in villages streams. On animal health, most important cattle diseases are trypanomosis and tick borne diseases (15%). Other important diseases are lumpy skin disease, heartwater, Anthrax and Foot and Mouth Disease(6%). Most important diseases in small ruminants are PPR, worm infestation, trvpanomosis and tick borne diseases and mange! sarcoptes. The access to veterinary services is limited.
4 Implications for project interventions:
Feedback workshops were held in all three sites in the Gambia to understand the findings of the baseline study. This understanding would increase the utility of the findings in the project design and implementation and improve the consistency of the country report findings with respect to stakeholders' values and views:
26. On livelihoods, the communities recommended that the project should invest more on small ruminants due to their shorter production cycle and quicker incomes.
27. The community confirmed the high dependence on forest products particularly in Kiang West site. The community participants recommended making more sustainable by greater emphasis in forestation, bush fire control and investment in community forest systems.
28. Livestock are predominantly ERL and kept for saving and insurance purposes. Therefore the development of formal savings and insurance services could allow for greater marketed off take of livestock.
29. Livestock diseases, water shortage and lack of feeds, need to be combated by accelerating the establishment of paravets and veterinary drug depots in the districts, implement herd health care programme, provide watering facilities for livestock, protection of rangelands, collection and use of crop residues and agro industrial by-products.
30. Uncontrolled bush fires increasing and need to be investigated. Although the quantity and quality of water for human and animal consumption has increased, salt intrusion into the wetlands is growing. There is a need to learn from earlier interventions.
31. The market, Cattle are not kept for milk production, therefore the establishment of the dairy plant should be delayed until information of the functioning of the dairy plant is established.