Ghana: Livestock Farming to The Rescue


Accra, Ghana, March 22, 2019//-A National Research Council 2015, report on “Critical Role of Animal Science Research in Food Security and Sustainability” indicates that the global demand for food from animal agriculture – livestock, poultry, and aquaculture – is anticipated to nearly double by 2050.

 Increased demand is due, in part, to a predicted increase in world population from 7.2 billion to between 9 and 10 billion people in 2050 (United Nations, 2013). The increase in population puts additional pressure on the availability of land, water, and energy needed for animal and crop agriculture.

As defined by the 1996 World Food Summit, food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.

Animal production is an integral part of Ghana’s agricultural economy and a major source of livelihood for many rural households in the Northern, North East, Savannah, Upper East and Upper West Regions of Ghana.

In Ghana, animals are raised under the extensive, semi-intensive and/or intensive system. However, the extensive system is the commonest method and it is practiced most especially in rural communities.

The livestock sub-sector’s main contribution to the national economy is food and nutrition security as it provides animal protein to enhance the nutritional status of the human population.

It provides employment generation opportunities to a large part of the population, particularly in the rural areas. It also offers prospects for wealth creation, income enhancement, coping mechanism against crop failure, financial security and improvement in rural livelihoods.

Industry operators bemoan the undesirably slow pace of the livestock sub-sector development in the country which has led to a situation whereby large volumes of ruminants, particularly, cattle, frozen meat and dairy products are imported annually to meet the domestic demand for livestock products.

Majority of the national livestock resources are owned by the small scale farmers most of whom live in the rural areas and sometimes cannot afford veterinary services when their animals are sick.

The implication is that fewer animals are contributed by these farmers to the animal and meat industry of Ghana coupled with the vulnerability to high animal mortality

Livestock populations in 2014 were cattle 1,657,000 sheep 4,335,000, goats, 6,044,000, pigs 682,000 and 68,511,000 poultry.

The major breeds of livestock are the West African Shorthorn, Zebu, Sanga, Jersey, Frisian-Sanga Crossbred and Jersey-Sanga Crossbred Cattle; African Wild Ass Donkey; West African Pony, Arab Barb and Chadian Horses, Djallonké, Sahelian, Djallonké-Sahelian Crossbred Sheep and Goats; Ashanti Black, Large White, Landcrace Pigs and Crossbreds; Domestic Fowl, Duck, Turkey, Guinea Fowl and Ostrich; Rabbit, Grasscutter and Guinea Pigs.

The rural nature of the industry bears witness to the fact that sustainable development of the livestock sub-sector would lead to more inclusive development and poverty alleviation.

It comes as a relief therefore the announcement by the Finance Minister during the presentation of the 2019 Budget that to enable the livestock sector to perform better in 2019 and beyond the government would roll out the livestock model of the Planting for Food and Jobs programme called Rearing for Food and Jobs (RJF).

The sole objective of this programme is to help increase the production of selected livestock, especially poultry.

The government should realise that the livestock sector is an important component of Ghana’s agriculture and plays a major role in providing livelihood support to the rural population, and contributes significantly to the national economy in terms of food and nutritional security.

Also since in spite of previous policies and strategies to improve the performance of the sector, the country is still dependant on excessive imports of livestock and livestock products to meet the demands for animal protein the government should undertake intensive and extensive stakeholders’ consultation to ensure success this time.

The government’s commitment to providing an enabling environment and adequate resources for the implementation of the policies and strategies will be crucial in achieving the expected results from the RJF.

One area worth watching is urban livestock keeping. Rapid urban population growth and demand for animal protein have provided a boost to urban and peri-urban farming.

Research points to the fact that though urban livestock keeping, often a part-time enterprise; benefits the poor and provides a way of diversifying livelihood activities that are accessible to vulnerable groups. Livestock also provide locally produced food products for people living near the livestock keepers

Urban livestock production is frequently associated with crop farming and is often a multi-species business. Association of both enterprises in one unit allows livestock-keeping households to recycle animal wastes, usually as crop fertiliser.

In some parts of Africa, for example  in Tanzania, more than 90% of urban livestock keepers use animal manure as a fertiliser  while in Ethiopia, dung is used as domestic fuel.

Urban livestock farmers usually keep more than one type of animal although a ‘secondary’ species may be poultry as they are well able to scavenge for their feed, especially if they are of the local indigenous type.

Cattle (overwhelmingly for milk production), sheep and goats are common urban animals throughout Africa. The dominant species in terms of numbers depends to a large extent on the background of the owners and the market potential.

Pigs are important in many cities but their distribution is governed by cultural and religious factors.

Equines, mainly donkeys but also horses – and mules in Ethiopia – provide a variety of transport services to urban dwellers including as pack animals, riding animals, working in 2- and 4-wheel carts and providing taxi services in vehicles known as ghari in Ethiopia and calèche in Senegal.

Encouragement of urban livestock farming, with appropriate regulation – to save operators from harassment by corrupt officials – would contribute benefits not only to the livestock owners themselves but also to the general population in greater employment opportunities and food security.

The economic importance of livestock farming cannot be ignored for any reason hence the government should pragmatically woo investors to make the country not only self-sufficient in animal products but also take its share of the global meat market.

As the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) puts it: “The livestock sector requires renewed attention and investments from the agricultural research and development community and robust institutional and governance mechanisms that reflect the diversity within the sector…

The challenges posed by the livestock sector cannot be solved by a single string of actions or by individual actors alone. They require integrated efforts by a wide range of stakeholders”.

By Oppong Baah, African Eye Report


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