The minister of Agriculture, Solomon Owens, Wednesday, presided over the official opening of the Regional Steering Committee Meeting of the Regional Project for Sustainable Management of Endemic Ruminant Livestock in West Africa (PROGEBE). The meeting was held at the Paradise Suites Hotel in Kololi.
PROGEBE is a six-year project being implemented in The Gambia, Guinea Conakry, Mali, and Senegal, with funding from the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the governments of the participating countries.
The objective of the project is to promote the development of trypanotolerant livestock breeding on a sustainable basis with a view to reducing poverty and improving the income of livestock breeders and other actors within the endemic ruminant value chain.
Declaring the meeting open, Minister Owens noted that the livestock sub-sector and livestock production in the sub-region continue to face problems related to healthcare, nutrition, water, improved management / husbandry skills and institutional support to access finance and markets.
He further noted that the region is confronted with a plethora of agricultural development challenges among them livestock production-related constraints, which also poses significant setbacks to the governments' development efforts.
The Agric minister pointed out that The Gambia has witnessed tremendous strides made by the project in dealing with some of the constraints particularly in ruminant livestock production and productivity.
He said PROGEBE - The Gambia has registered a number of major achievements, such as the provision of infrastructure in the form of designated cattle tracks, watering facilities, livestock markets and mini-dairies for milk processing.
He thanked GEF, AfDB and the governments of the four participating countries for their foresight and willingness to invest in multi-national projects like PROGEBE.
Deputisng for the United Nations Resident Coordinator in The Gambia, the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) representative in The Gambia, Dr Babagana Ahmadu, told the gathering that the project is actively engaged in capacity building of individual actors and institutions as the most appropriate way of ensuring sustainability of achievement when it ends.
He assured that the UN system will continue to support partner countries to implement their respective and joint initiatives with a view to attaining the MDGs as they relate to poverty reduction, improved sanitation and health and environmental sustainability, among others.
Dr Babou Ousman Jobe, acting director general of ITC, said livestock plays a key role in the socio-economic development of the respective countries as provider of food, income and crop production resources. He added that the constraints to raising the productivity of livestock, especially ruminants, are many, but the provision of feeding resources of adequate nutritional quality is likely to be the most limiting factor.
According to him, the other aspects of husbandry are not important but in general, animal numbers and production will be controlled by feed supply. Jobe noted that other aspects such as breed improvement and health measures will have little effect unless nutritional requirements are met.