The Sixth Regional Steering Committee Meeting of the Regional Project on Sustainable Management of Endemic Ruminant Livestock in West Africa kicked off on Wednesday, 27th of February, 2013 at the Paradise Suite Hotel in Kololi in the Kanifing Municipality.
According to the Chairman of the Regional Steering Committee,
the meeting is taking place based on two objectives namely the general and the specific objectives. He outlined the general objectives as to Provide Strategic direction and overall guidance regarding the implementation of the project; Oversee the technical, administrative and financial implementation of the project; Support the identification of opportunities for linkages across project activities with different sources of funding and countries in which the project intervenes and the specific objectives as to Review the implementation of the project in 2012; Review and validate the 2013 annual work plan and budget (AWPB) and to Make a field visit to project sites to see on the ground some of the achievements of PROGEBE-Gambia.
In delivering his remark at the official opening of the Regional Steering Committee Meeting, Dr. Babou Ousman Jobe, Acting. Director General of ITC said Livestock play a very key role in the socioeconomic development of our respective countries as provider of food, income and crop production resources and that these benefits are derived from a high population of diverse livestock species.
Notwithstanding this high density and diversity, he said, livestock productivity is low and national needs in terms of livestock products are far from being met and that large quantities of meat and dairy products are therefore imported annually to meet effective demands.
According to the Ag. DG of ITC, the constraints to raising the productivity of livestock, especially ruminants are many. He however said the provision of feeding resources of adequate nutritional quality is likely to be the most limiting factor and that this is not to suggest that other aspects of husbandry are un-important, but that in general, animal number and production will be controlled by feed supply.
Dr. Jobe noted that other aspects such as breed improvement and health measures will have little effect unless nutritional requirements are met.
He said "to mitigate this situation by increasing livestock productivity to positively impact on the livelihoods of the peoples of the region through environmentally sound and integrated farming systems, will require among other factors:-l) Sustaining technology generation and adaptation of technologies; 2) Strengthening livestock value chain enterprises; 3) Facilitate a participatory policy formulation process through multi-stakeholder policy dialogues; and 4) Facilitate technology adoption pathways by all the relevant stakeholders
For his part, Dr. Babagana Ahmadou, FAO Representative and representing the UN System in the Gambia, said endemic ruminant livestock represents an important component of the economy of the countries in the arid and sub-arid zones of West Africa and that it is a source of milk and meat for people and insurance for livestock keepers.
The FAO Rep said it is widely accepted that the future presence and sustainable use of endemic ruminant livestock require changes in how these animals are perceived by smallholders in relation to their Sahelian counterparts believed to have superior merits. These animals, he said, have unique genetic traits that need to be conserved and valued, which ultimately requires changes on how they are marketed both locally and regionally.
Dr. Ahmadou said the Progebe project is about marketing service and opportunities for these breeds at the national and regional level on the one side and the new strategies, best bet options and innovation platforms for improved livestock management on other to increase ERL production and productivity
The project, said the FAO Rep, is actively engaged among others in capacity building of individual actors and institutions as the most appropriate way of ensuring sustainability of achievement when the project ends. He said trainings on animal feeding practices and entrepreneurship development, women milk vendors' association in processing milk into different dairy products destined for the nearby urban markets will go a long way in improving household income and food security.
The FAO Rep said as for the UN they are greatly enthusiastic about the possibilities for regional synergy and inter-country benefit sharing enabled by this project's execution and that this is very much in line with the inter-country cooperation philosophy that is at the heart of their work at the Regional Office for West and Central Africa.
Concluding, Dr. Ahmadou asserted that the UN system continues to support partner countries to implement respective and join initiatives with a view of attaining the MDGs as they relate to poverty reduction, improve sanitation and health and environmental sustainability among others.
In his statement, the Minister of Agriculture. Hon Solomon Owens, said the region is confronted with a plethora of agricultural development challenges which include livestock production related constraints and which in turn also pose significant set-backs to their Governments' development efforts.
Minister Owens said from ongoing efforts it is evident that they have been putting a lot more emphasis on the crop sub-sector in respect of addressing their agricultural development agenda but failing to realize that a considerable number of farmers are equally livestock owners and dealers too.
Therefore, he went on, his appeal to the participants at the meeting is that they should endeavor to give a commensurable level of attention to the livestock sub-sector to better support their mixed farmers and livestock owners in addressing the most prominent challenges confronting them and that prominent among these challenges are unpredictable/unreliable climatic conditions, animal pests and diseases, threats of genetic dilution etc.
Minister Owens disclosed that 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 noted that Livestock watering has been central to the demands of pastoral communities especially during the long dry seasons and that Livestock markets are not new but the availability of infrastructure especially loading ramps at these markets have alleviated the suffering endured by both traders and the animals during transportation. He said they have also registered a certain degree of success in community based milk processing and of course, he is also well informed that the activities/achievements mentioned here under PROGEBE - The Gambia have also been realized in all four PRGEBE countries as documented in the project appraisal reports.
The Agriculture therefore took the opportunity to extend his hearty congratulations to the Steering Committee and to the National Coordinators for what he described as "a job well done".
Minister Owens concluded that he is sure that with the achievement registered and lessons learnt, the Regional Steering Committee will look into the possibilities of extending the project either in its current form and/or redesign a similar one in support of Ruminant Livestock Development.