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A glance at small ruminant enhancement project!

Jan 15, 2020, 1:15 PM

Rearing small ruminants (livestock) is an old traditional and closely linked to rural culture, indicative of the fact that many rural families have always realised the importance of livestock. The central role of livestock in natural resource based livelihood strategies particularly that of poor farmers (women and men) in Gambia cannot be over-emphasised.

It’s been reported in The Point yesterday’s edition that the Project Management Unit (PMU) of the Small Ruminant Production Enhancement Project (SREPEP) in partnership with the Central Project Coordination Unit (CPCU) under the Ministry of Agriculture recently launched a US$26.81M nationwide project that seeks to boost the production of small ruminant in the country.

We, however, understand that the project in fact is not a grant but a loan. We therefore have to remind ourselves that too much loans have been secured by the Barrow government and they must all be paid back. With that, our project implementers must always put all mechanisms in place to ensuring their success. And for that to happen, there must always be bottom-top approach and not the usual way; there should be effective monitoring and evaluation mechanisms and also to ensure sustainability.  

Gratefully, the project also seeks to alleviate poverty, food insecurity and provide job creation opportunities for many women and youth in the country. Out of the total envelope of the SRPEP cost, the Islamic Development Bank’s  contribution  is US$ 25.17 (94%) and the government of The Gambia US$ 1.64million (6%).

Bearing that in mind, let’s judiciously account for every butut to ensure that local farmers in the beneficiary communities are better enhanced. It is a great move looking at the target communities to be covered in the project (39 districts across the country). If wisely used, it would go a long way not only in enhancing livestock production and productivity, but by extension cut millions of dalasis used to import livestock from abroad.

We hope that local capacities will be built especially livestock owners, butchers, dealers, construction of boreholes, meat storage, markets and laboratory and provide medicines for small ruminants.

Investing in sustainable development projects would no doubt have trickle-down effects on local communities, thereby boosting the livelihoods of beneficiary communities if the project is properly implemented with sincerity and sacred commitment. 

Yes, there are some limitations and challenges in livestock promotion among poor farmers – inadequate feed and water resources, low productivity and limited availability of health services, and poor management practices- and these need to be addressed.

This reminds us about the importance of a participatory approach and how people’s initiatives can bring about sustainable solutions.

In the conventional agriculture of today, however, the major focus has been on simplifying the production process and on maximising the yield of the final product, be it meat or milk. In this process, an increasing amount of external inputs have been used to achieve the production goals and research has been focused on developing animal breeds, which responds well to increased amounts of nutrient rich feed.

Also, environmentalists are of the opinion that goat has an aggressive grazing habit which causes severe damage to vegetation and accelerates desertification. But small ruminants can improve soil and vegetation cover as well as help in dispersing seeds through their hooves and manure. Although blamed for negatively impacting environment, livestock will continue to remain a livelihood option for the majority of the poor farmers in Africa and elsewhere. The solution lies in promoting adequate measures to ensure sustainable development without causing damage to the environment.

“The ultimate purpose of economics, of course, is to understand and promote the enhancement of well-being.”

Ben Bernanke