Farmers Raise Over 77,000 Rams

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By Assan Bah

 Dr Demba Sabally, Minister of Agriculture speaking to reporters at the launch of the 2024 ‘Tobaski’ livestock sales, said up to seventy-seven thousand (77,000) rams were raised through the Small Ruminant Project. The ceremony was organized by the Gambia Livestock Marketing Agency (GLMA) in collaboration with the NaLOA, GIRAV, GAFSP, SRPEP and WALIC .

The launched 2024 Tobaski’ ram sale which is aimed at facilitating the marketing of local breeds of rams and encourage domestic production was held at the Abuko abattoir.

The Minister said: “In 2024 we raised about seventy-seven thousand (77,000) rams locally and the national demand is about two-hundred and twenty-thousand.”

This, he said, has not reached the demand of the country which he said is over two-hundred thousand rams.

“My ministry with the small-ruminant project has been extending and building fattening, breeding, and pasture sides. The government of the Gambia believes in availability, we made all this to make sure that rams are available.”

He said further to this, the small ruminant project has also provided drinking points and free vaccination which he is geared towards increasing the number of locally raised rams. “Almost 97% of small ruminants in the country are vaccinated at no cost to the farmer and that has helped a lot of them to control small ruminant diseases.

Despite the government’s decision to put a tax waiver and reduce other transportation costs (50% payment at the Ferry Services) on livestock for the period of the Tobaski feast, buyers continue to lament the high prices of livestock. 

The Minister however, said: “There are so many factors that come into play when you are dealing with livestock business. If we only raise 77,000 locally and our need is up to two-hundred and twenty thousand. This means that over 60% of the rams here are coming from other countries. And it is where the exchange rate comes into play and the CFA has risen up and that has put a lot of pressure on our ram dealers, these people are businessmen and they look at so many factors.” 

The ceremony also availed the Minister to interact with the farmers and herders to get first-hand information of some of their challenges and needs. 

He said: “We are aware of the price pressure and we will continue to examine it in terms of availability, affordability and access.”

Speaking about the farmers’ concerns over lack of access to finance, he said: “Access to finance is not only limited to ram business, it is a major constraint in the agricultural sector.” 

He said to address this issue, the government through his ministry has introduced a new project called the ‘GAMBISA’.

He said: “They will work with commercial banks and guarantee loans from the agricultural sector to increase access to finance. The small ruminant project is giving millions of Dalasis to dealers involved in animal breeding and the likes.  

Mr Momodou Darboe the Director General of GLMA called on Gambians to engage in backyard farming as he said that would reduce the pressure on buyers.

He added: “The Small Ruminant Project is assisting livestock breeders in all the regions. As Gambians, we should all do backyard farming and try to have one or two sheep or rams. If not every year we will be talking about expensive rams.

Mr Darboe highlighted the need for the importation of foreign animals saying that, “If there are importation of animals, there is no way that the prices will not be high because what we have is not enough for the entire country.”

Meanwhile, farmers who spoke to this reporter all decried the high exchange rate, cost of hay and low sales. While some welcomed the government’s decision to confine all inside the abattoir meaning no one is allowed to sell along the roadsides, others criticized it saying that they cannot all fit inside, leaving others with no choice but to move to other locations.