Jul 27, 2010, 1:42 PM
The deputy FAO country representative, Mrs Mariatou Faal-Njie, was speaking on behalf of the FAO country representative at a day-long congress organised by the Shepherds and Livestock Owners Association, held at the Gambia College conference hall.
Mariatou Njie noted that the livestock sector is one of the fastest growing areas of the agricultural economy, and the growth and transformation of the sector offers opportunities for agricultural development, poverty reduction and food security gains.
However, she added, the rapid pace of change risks marginalizing smallholders, and systemic risks to the natural resources and human health must be addressed to ensure sustainability.
She expressed delight in delivering a statement at the Shepherds and Livestock Owners Association congress.
The purpose of the annual congress was to bring together all stakeholders in the industry to discuss issues hindering livestock development; to develop the Gambia into a nation of livestock exporters; and to establish a platform that would represent all livestock associations in the country, she said.
This year’s congress, with the theme: “Transforming The Gambia into a nation of livestock exportation through capacity building, education, livestock health promotion and community-policing.”
According to Mrs Njie, efficient livestock production requires good management practices, which includes appropriate feeding and health care and the selection and development of breeds that are well-adapted to the specific production environments.
The FAO programme focuses on sustainable development of dairy, beef, pig and poultry, as well as small ruminants’ production and draught animals.
It takes into account, among others, animal health, welfare-related issues, the responsible use of animal genetic resources, sustainable animal nutrition, and feeding, she added.
It provides advocacy awareness raising, information, knowledge, guidance and technical support to help produce high quality animal products, safely, efficiently and responsibly, while improving the people’s livelihood and meeting citizens’ demands, she continued.
FAO also works alongside governments and farmers responding during and after livestock emergencies, and promotes dialogue among the public, private and civil society partners; whose ultimate goal is responsible and sustainable livestock production, she added.
Also speaking at the congress, Alagie Lamin Sanneh, permanent secretary number 2 at the Ministry of Local Government and Lands, said the congress was geared toward giving the association members a chance to discuss issues of great concern affecting them, and carve the way forward in addressing them through the government.
He said the rural-urban drift has a negative impact in livestock in the country, and urged the farmers, cattle owners and the local authorities to sit together and find a solution in the issue of cattle tracks.
He noted that the importance of cattle tracks must be emphasised in the meeting, as this should be a collective collaboration to ensure that land was reserved for cattle tracks.
According to him, if cattle tracks were diverted to other agricultural purposes, it would create problems between the farmers and herders.
He advised the association members to be more united, as there are many opportunities for them.
Sherifo Bojang, permanent secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture, spoke at length about the significance of livestock development in the country, disclosing that very soon the ministry would launch the national livestock hub.
He challenged the members of the association to come forward to discuss the issues affecting them, and assured the association that the Ministry of Agriculture would support them in this noble cause because it is related to national development.
Kombo Central Chief Dembo Keleng Bojang expressed gratitude to the livestock owners, and commended the association for their stance to ensure that cattle thefts are drastically reduce in the country.
He called on the general public to join the association to help realize their dreams, adding that the association has been instrumental in eradicating cattle rustling in the region.
Dr. Henry D.R Carrol from the Ministry of Justice spoke at length about the importance of the congress.
The purpose was to bring all stakeholders, livestock owners, shepherds and butchers, among others, to discuss issues hindering livestock development.