Government’s flagship agriculture programme Planting for food and Jobs is designed to transform the agricultural sector and make it a more productive to ensure food self-sufficiency, as well as providing raw material to increase agro-processing for better returns.
That’s all well and good, but a key sub-sector in agriculture is being neglected to the detriment of the nation – and that is the livestock sector. While the livestock sector contributed around 2.1 percent of GDP in 2008, it dropped to 2 percent in both 2009 and 2010.
It again dropped further to 1.1 percent of GDP in 2017 and is very indicative of the livestock sector’s strength in the country – or lack thereof. The Ghana National Livestock, Breeders, and Traders Association is lamenting this lack of attention, claiming government officials do not visit them to dialogue about the sector; and worst of all, not even Ministers of Agriculture show concern by calling on them.
Thus, they are left to their own fate and this probably accounts for dwindling fortunes of the livestock sector. What saddens them all the more is when they see how their counterparts are treated in neighbouring Burkina Faso and other West African countries.
Ruminants like goats are imported from Burkina Faso simply because Ghanaian livestock breeders are losing interest as access to credit is a challenge. In Burkina Faso government finances both farmers and livestock breeders, yet even the Ministry of Food and Agriculture’s Livestock Department hardly visits and’or advises breeders.
What is also hurting their business is that the growing middle-class in the country patronise imported processed meat products, and hardly patronise livestock breeders for live products. Therefore, demand is shifting with changing patterns and urbanisation.
We believe the call for more attention to the livestock sector will complement and even enhance government’s ‘Planting for Food and Jobs’, as some critics say very little in the livestock sector is incorporated into the flagship agriculture programme.
It is never too late to infuse livestock breeding into the programme, since the poultry sub-sector is also in distress and needs attention. After all, food security includes self-sufficiency in livestock breeding as much as it does crop production. Livestock breeders are key providers of Ghanaians’ protein requirement, and they cannot be downplayed or ignored.
Therefore, we are calling upon the Minister of Food and Agriculture-In-Charge of Livestock to periodically visit Livestock breeders to dialogue with them and find out their concerns.