Africa > West Africa > Gambia > Livestock Sector in Gambia

Gambia: Livestock Sector in Gambia


A recent agricultural census held in the early part of the first decade reveals that 74 percent of farmers rear poultry. About 40 percent of farmers reported having cattle, compared to 38 percent for sheep and 58 percent for goats. The largest number of cattle is found in Basse (URD) and WRD. Major species of livestock in Gambia include cattle, sheep, goats, horses, donkeys, chickens and pigs. Poultry and small ruminant management activities have a high low productivity rate and high mortality combined with yearly epidemics of Newcastle Disease and PPR (Peste des Petits Ruminants).

Most of the cattle breeds are either zebus or tsetse resistant ndamas (a cross between the zebu & the West African Dwarf).

Vital Statistics of Livestock Units:

  Heads Growth Rate
  2002 1990-2000
Cattle 327,000 1.1
Sheep & Goats 408,000 -1.8
Pigs   17,000 0.0
Poultry 591,000 0.7
Source: FAO 2005a    


The livestock production system in Gambia contributes about 25% of annual agricultural GDP and 5% of total national GDP. From 1980 the economic contribution of the livestock sector to the Gambia's GDP has progressively increased from 4% to 5.5% with the monetary value realized by the sector increasing from D18.1 million in 1982 to D28.3 million in 1996.

Gender Ownership of Ruminants:
Women play a major role in small ruminant production, representing 52% of the owners of sheep , 67% of the owners of goats and 43% of the owners of both sheep and goats. The average number of animals owned is quite low (about six head of sheep and goats each, out of which about three are breeding females). Most of the breeding males are born in their respective flock and there are fewer breeding bucks than breeding rams.

Methods of Rearing:
The rearing method used is mainly traditional and most production is targeted at the domestic market.

Overall traditional production is widespread and subsistence in nature, with value laid more on the total numbers owned rather than the economic values of stock. Livestock management is mainly extensive pasture based form of rearing. In this regard the animals are essentially free-range on harvested croplands during the dry season being tethered in the evenings and limited to restricted areas or tethered during the harvesting season.

Over the years livestock production has become more sedentary in nature although, brief management is still being practiced on a limited basis in some pastoral areas, especially in the CRD (Central River Division).

During the non-rainy period as well as in bad years cattle move between the floodplains and the woodland savanna in search of water, greener pastures and to reduce the risk of outbreaks of cattle diseases.

Ruminants such as sheep and goats a mainly sedentary being kept in private compounds during the night time.

Draught / Working Animals:
Herdsman manage draught animals such as oxen, horses, donkeys and milking cows through the semi-intensive rearing system. During the rains when such livestock is resting they are usually tied on field to graze. During the dry season they are hand fed with straw or other vegetation.

Ram Fattening & Dairy Production:
In more recent times intensive management of small ruminants and dairy cattle has taken place. During the 1990s projects for dairy cattle production and ram fattening were set up. The ram fattening was designed to increase non-crop income for farmers via intensive feeding methods before the Tobaski Feast. The compound based dairy project was designed for farm milk production and the cow dung to be used to fertilize their fields. The Department of Livestock Services is also promoting increased, village-based milk pasteurization packaging and marketing of milk, and milk products, particularly with women farmers.


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