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ECOWAS Commission places livestock sector top on agenda

Oct 26, 2016, 9:27 AM

The head of the Agriculture Division at the ECOWAS Commission, Ernest Aubee, has underscored the importance of the livestock sector in the agricultural transformation of West Africa.

The ECOWAS Commission had recognized the important role of the livestock sector and the benefits attached to the sector, Aube said.

Livestock serve food security, livelihood, and trade as well as contribute to alleviating poverty, he added.

The ECOWAS official made these remarks while delivering a statement at the inauguration of the regional livestock policy hub, organised by AU-IBAR, ECOWAS Commission, FAO, in collaboration with the Gambia government through the Ministry of Agriculture.

The forum, hosted by the Department of Livestock Services, was held at the Ocean Bay Hotel on Monday.

Aube said the meeting was timely and relevant, as it was geared towards promoting advocacy and knowledge creation, building institutional and individual capacity in policy analysis, and encouraging change through supporting initiatives with a high leverage effect.

According to the ECOWAS Commission representative, the inauguration of the regional livestock policy hub “will certainly contribute to the development of the livestock as a source of food, income and employment for the growing population of the ECOWAS region, which stands at 358 million.

He also outlined that the ECOWAS region over the last five years has been active in the development of the livestock sector.

“We are indeed grateful to FAO, AU-IBAR and in particular the VET-GOT program,” he said.

The ECOWAS Commission in the past year has been in the forefront in addressing the challenges of transhumance   agriculture in the region, as the 15 ECOWAS member states are presently developing their NAIP and the ECOWAS region developing the RAIP, he continued.

“We urge all member states that the issues of livestock are mainstreamed and coasted in the National Agricultural Investment Plan (NAIP).

The second generation of NAIP should include all the current and emerging livestock policy issues, so the objective of agricultural diversification becomes a reality, he said.

Behan Became, animal production and health officer of West Africa Team, FAO Regional Office for Africa, said available evidence indicates that the West African population estimated at 358 million in 2016 is growing at one of the fastest rates of 2.7 percent per year. It is projected to reach 455 million by 2025 and almost double that figure by 2050, reaching 885 million.

Apart from general population growth, there is also rapid urbanization in West Africa. Currently, 45% of the population in West Africa is believed to live in urban areas compared to 27% 30 years ago.

He added that population growth, urbanization and the shifting preference of the emerging middle class towards animal sourced food are factors which increase the demand for nutrients dense animal products.

According to him, the livestock sector in West Africa has huge potential for growth. This potential can be harnessed through sustainable intensification of the livestock sector, which in turn implies better use of inputs and services, policy and institutional support and market access.