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March 13, 2011

West Africa plans to enhance livestock trade and security

by Henry Neondo

Ministers charged with livestock, trade and security in the Economic Commission of West African States, ECOWAS, are expected to endorse the draft Strategic Plan for the Development and Transformation of the Livestock Sector when they meet in Bamako, Mali on March 10.

The strategic plan is designed for the transformation and economic value addition to the cattle, meat and dairy sub-sector in ECOWAS, a 15-member regional economic community for West African countries.

The plan aims to provide sustainable food security, reduce poverty and provide decent income for those working in the sector while preserving natural resources.

More specifically, it aims to improve production systems and support product transformation, provide food security from livestock products, reduce poverty, provide decent incomes to producers, preserve indigenous livestock genetic resources as well as improve veterinary governance.

The ministers meeting is being preceded by a session of experts, who are fulfilling a ministerial directive from a meeting in Niamey, Niger in February 2009 that the ECOWAS Commission draw up a specific strategy for the development of livestock farming as part of the framework for the implementation of the ECOWAS Agricultural Policy (ECOWAP).

The ministers’ guidelines include strengthening of veterinary governance, support of production and gradual intensification of production systems, promotion and/or enhancement of intra-regional and international trade in livestock, meat and dairy, improvement of pastures and protection of grazing lands-transhumance routes and promotion of public-private partnerships.

They also include strengthening of data collection, management and dissemination structures, strengthening of research and training as well as supporting the transformation of products, using science and technology.

At the opening of the experts meeting on Monday March 7, 2011 in Bamako, the ECOWAS Commissioner for Agriculture, Environment and Water Resources, Mr. Ousseini Salifou, highlighted the importance of the livestock sector which, he said, contributes about 44 per cent to the region’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and provides livelihood for millions of people in the region.

He said it was in acknowledgement of the importance of livestock sector that the regional ministers called for a strategic plan to be developed so as to beef up the various components of the sector.

The Commissioner also referred to the ECOWAS Regional Animal Health Centre in Bamako and expressed the hope that the centre would become a specialized animal health institution for West Africa.

Mrs. Diallo Madeleine Ba, Minister of Livestock and Fisheries of Mali expressed the importance of livestock in Mali’s economy, disclosing that Mali had a population of nine million bovine, 11.8 million sheep, 16 million goats and 35 million poultry, contributing some 30 per cent of the country’s livelihood.

She reiterated the critical importance of the sector in the region, hence the decision of the Niamey meeting of ministers to develop a strategic action plan for the development and transformation of the livestock sector.

The Minister also commented on the contributions made by the Regional Animal Health Centre to the animal health delivery services in the region, and added that it was part of the commitment of the Government of Mali to give the centre a working framework to promote poverty reduction, food security and economic growth.

Dr. Ibrahim Gashash Ahmed, Director in the Nigerian Federal Department of Livestock, who represented his country’s minister responsible for Agriculture and rural development said it was gratifying that ECOWAS was developing a master plan for the development of the livestock sector in the region and called for uniformity of actions as well as compliance with ECOWAS regulations for the success of the plan.

Regional experts say, despite its creation more than 30 years ago, ECOWAS’s policy environment—particularly it’s poorly-designed and inadequately-implemented policies—remains one of the major contributors to the high cost of conducting business in West Africa.

They say there exists a gap between the ECOWAS free trade provisions and the policy-related constraints faced on a daily basis by traders and transporters of livestock within the region.

According to the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), livestock trade policies differ widely between countries in West Africa.

Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger are livestock exporting countries, and want to strengthen livestock marketing and processing and promote regional trade.

Livestock importing countries such as Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Nigeria, promote policies that protect local livestock producers, boost internal production, and ensure food security in livestock products.

A recently released report investigating livestock policies in six West African countries has urged that regional policies be streamlined, harmonised and implemented in a coordinated way to avoid bureaucratic bottlenecks.

The report also noted that transportation of livestock across borders and illegal “taxes” represent significant additional marketing costs that impact negatively on regional livestock trade.

ILRI says cross-border transportation in West Africa can cost a staggering 300 per cent more than the equivalent transfer of beef from Europe to West Africa’s coast. Meantime, regional cross-border transfer of cattle costs twice as much as domestic transportation, despite better transportation infrastructures.

Intra-regional trade in live animals attracts certain costs which are unlikely to be incurred if meat products are traded.

For example, livestock drovers (people who drive herds of animals to market) are paid handling fees during the 2-3 day trip.

“Some governments in the region are not fully committed to the implementation of agreed trade policy reforms concerning trade liberalisation and facilitation, exchange and payments systems and investment facilitation. This negatively affects costs of livestock trade and regional integration”, says ILRI.

Illegal road taxation at numerous checkpoints can be as much as 10 per cent of total marketing costs. Here, traders are required to make non-receipted payments to public agents for no obvious reason.

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