Ruminant Livestock Production as a Business Enterprise in the Upper East Region

Facilitator Interacting with Livestock Officers in Upper East Region

The Northern Savanna Ecological Zone (NSEZ) made up of northern, upper east and upper west regions of Ghana offers an ideal and conducive environment for ruminant livestock production. Ruminant livestock are animals with a four-chambered stomach, capable of converting roughages, forages, and agro-by products into products such as meat and milk for human consumption. These animals include sheep, goats, and cattle. The NSEZ has the right rainfall, vegetation, land, less pest, and diseases for ruminant livestock production on any scale from small, medium to commercial production.

The zone is home to about 50% of the country ruminant population with smallholder producers using traditional methods of production forming the majority. The ruminant livestock sector potential in the upper east region and the country at large is yet to be fully exploited. The ruminant livestock value chain has the potential of creating many jobs for various actors along the value chain in the region and country.

In the Upper East Region, ruminant livestock production when taken as a business could create jobs, employment, ensure food and income security for many households. The sector could enhance the image and remove the upper east region from the league of three poorest regions in the country.

For instance, improved cattle production could result in the use of bullocks to plough smallholder producers’ fields of approximately 0.5 hectares instead of using tractors. Tractors are difficult to come by during the onset of the rains, very expensive and continuous use on the same field predisposes the land to hard pan. Some research indicates that, bullock – owning households cultivate 60% more land than those who do not.

The upper east region also experiences variations in rainfall pattern and declining soil fertility resulting in reduced crop yields from cultivated field. Ruminant livestock production could reduce the impact of rainfall variation due to climate change and declining soil fertility by providing manure. Manure from ruminant livestock production will enhance the soil nutrient content and water holding capacity for improved yields. An integrated ruminant livestock -crop production system will therefore make smallholder producers more climate resilient in a changing climate.

The livestock sector in Ghana, contributes on average an estimated 7% to Agricultural Gross Domestic Product (GDP), hence it makes a significant contribution to overall Agricultural development. However, in 2001, the estimated population of livestock in the country for cattle was 1.3 million, sheep 2.5 million, goats 2.7 million, pigs 0.37 million and poultry including guinea fowl 10 million (Livestock Development Project Appraisal Report, 2001). Almost fifteen years down the line, the estimated livestock population in 2014 were cattle 1,657,000 sheep 4,335,000, goats, 6,044,000, pigs 682,000 and 68,511,000 poultry (Ghana Livestock Development Policy and Strategy 2016).

The undesirably slow growth pace of the livestock sub-sector development has created a deficit in animal source protein in the country. Ghana spends millions of dollars importing large volumes of ruminants, particularly, cattle, frozen meat, and dairy products annually to meet the domestic demand for livestock products. Although, the per capita consumption of livestock products in Ghana is 6.7% of the average for Africa and only 2% of the FAO recommended levels (Livestock Development Project Appraisal Report, 2001). These figures represent only the officially documented ones excluding live ruminant livestock imports from the Sahel countries (e.g. Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger) into the country. For example, in 2013, live ruminant livestock imports for slaughter were 21,131 cattle, 16,728 sheep and 16,953 goats (Ghana Livestock Development Policy and Strategy 2016).

The challenge of Ghana livestock subsector leading to the nation’s supply deficit of livestock and poultry products are due to low productivity, prohibitive cost, low quality feed resources, high interest rates, no finance for producers, poor management practices, less government investment and policy direction.

Although, the Ghana Shared Growth and Development Agenda II offered some policy instrument to operationalised and develop the livestock subsector, not much was achieved in the overall goal of the policy. The goals as stipulated in the Ghana Shared Growth and Development Agenda II document were to:
(i) increase the supply of meat, animal, and dairy products from domestic production at the current aggregate level of 30% to 80%, and
(ii) (ii) contribute to the reduction of the incidence of poverty among farmers from 59% to 30% by the year 2015
Although the Ministry of Food and Agriculture have implemented several programmes and projects to improve agriculture productivity, majority of these programmes and projects funding focused on crop-tree farmers. The ruminant livestock subsector and producers have seen very little investment and funding from government and agriculture related non-governmental organisations working in the country.

The Canadian Government is financially supporting the Ministry of Food and Agriculture with 125 million Canadian Dollars aimed at Modernising Agriculture in Ghana (MAG) in the next five years.

Based on past experiences of major project funding not helping the ruminant livestock producer in the country, regional, municipal and district livestock officers and community livestock workers are strategizing to change the trend through capacity building training. Therefore, a one-day capacity building workshop brought together 24 participants; Regional, Municipal and District Livestock Officers and Community Livestock Workers with the aim to:
i) Build the capacity of participants on Improved Ruminant Livestock Production as a Business in the Region.
ii) Enhance the skills and knowledge of participants to promote ruminant livestock production as a business for the youth and smallholder producers.
iii) Exploit the investment opportunities and actors in the livestock value chain for jobs, employment, food, and income security in the region.

The training will enable the livestock officers and community livestock workers transfer improved technologies to enhance the production and productivity of smallholder producers and promote the ruminant livestock industry in the region.

With the current government policy of “One District; One Factory” the region can improve its ruminant livestock production and advocate for the revamping of the Zuarungu Meat Factory. The meat factory has the potential to creating many jobs and employment opportunities along the livestock value chain in the northern, upper east and west region.

The operation of the meat factory will also reduce the long distances of transporting live animals from the Sahel countries to southern Ghana. The animals could be slaughtered and processed into various products in the factory and transported in cold vans by road or air to major outlets in the country.

Article by:
Abukari Yakubu
Regional Livestock Officer/Agricultural Systems Specialist
Upper East Region
Contact: +233 20 591 80 67 / +233 24 634 36 80
Email: yakubuabukari@ymail.com

Editorial Note: 

This was a Municipal, District and Community Livestock Officers  workshop to strategize to promote ruminant livestock production as a Business Enterprise in the Upper East Region of Ghana.


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