By Modou S. Joof
After a severe food crisis in The Gambia in 2011, generally-poor farmers are still not out of the woods yet as an estimated 398, 472 heads of cattle in the tiny West African country are at imminent risk of death.
Gambian farmers are faced with another problem: the outbreak of the Contagious Bovine Pleuropneumonia (CBPP).
The CBPP disease is considered the biggest threat to cattle production in Sub-Saharan Africa, animal health experts have said.
It has already killed over 4000 cattle in The Gambia since late last year when it was first discovered.
The Animal Health-Crises Management Centre of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said the disease has the potential to cause the death of 200, 000 cattle in The Gambia. It said the monetary value of such loss is estimated at two billion Gambian Dalasis (approximately US$60 millions).
This latest woe facing Gambian farmers who are the poorest in the country, adds up to the devastating impact of a f
ood crisis that hit the country in 2012.
A total crop failure manifested itself after what many observers blamed on erratic rainfall during the 2011 cropping season, but farmers’ increasing lack of resources to acquire enough farm imple
ments is also to blame.
The Government’s slow response might h
ave contributed to the devastating impact of that hunger crisis.
Local media hinted the authorities in late 2011 of a total crop failure and the shortage of stock for the farming-poor but the government only declared a “state of emergency” in March 2012.
With farmers yet to fully recover from the impact of the food crisis, the CBPP disease is already threatening their lives and livelihoods.
An emergency assistance project to control the Contagious Bovine Pleuropneumonia (CBPP) was officially launched on 6th February 2013 , three months after a November 8, 2012 Gambia Government declaration of “National Animal Health Emergency”.
Gambia’s Agriculture Minister Solomon Owens said the government and partners have already outlined activities geared towards effectively controlling the diseases in line with a five point strategic plan of action.
He said his ministry has set up a “National Rapid Response Team” responsible for the overall national coordination with funding already available.
But local media reports said the Response Team is yet to kick-start the so-called nationwide vaccination campaign.
On 4th January 2013, Gambia’s Bureau of Statistics, GBoS projected that economic output would expand by 10.1% in 2013, a premised on strong growth of agriculture and tourism.
But Mr Owens said this positive projection is now threatened considering that the livestock sub-sector traditionally contributes about 8% to the gross domestic products, GDP, (the total value of the goods and services that the Gambia produces in a year).
“…and with about half of the cattle population at risk of decimation due to the disease, this vital contribution to the economy may not be realised,” he said.
He claim that crop production will also be affected in 2013 considering that most crop farmers employ cattle-based animal fraction in crop production.
The FAO said it has secured initial funding from the African Development Bank to initiate the first phase of the vaccination campaign which will cover communities in Central River and Upper River regions.
The two regions are where the index case of the disease was discovered. But grave concerns have been raised as to when the vaccination will actually begin.