Diminishing Return: The Ever Declining Value of the South Sudan Livestock Sector

Posted: January 9, 2018 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Commentary, Contributing Writers, Economy, Investments, Junub Sudan, Opinion Articles, Opinion Writers

By Abraham Biar Gai, Nairobi, Kenya

Dinka cows

January 9, 2018 (SSB) — With view of shading light and opening up discussions on why South Sudan livestock sub-sector is seriously under-performing visually in all aspects that include food productivity and security, trade, poverty reduction, income generation, employment and broadening economic-based in spite of the huge potential it has, several flashpoints related to lack of appropriate policies or lack of implementation of such policies have been identified.  

Livestock sector dynamics

Livestock is a collective term used to refer to domesticated animals that are kept by human for purpose of production of food (meat, milk, egg, blood), raw material (hair, wool, hide & skin) and services (animal draught & carriage) as well as religious and social functions (sacrifices, marriage and status) depending with the community and user. The principal livestock species in South Sudan context are cattle, shoats (sheep & Goat), donkey, pig, camel, and poultry in distributed across the country in varied numbers based on the ecological influences as well as the communities’ preferences.

Based on the estimates from South Sudan’s Ministry of Animal Resources and Fisheries (MARF), African Union- Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR) and United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), South Sudan as of 2014 has 17.7 million cattle, 12.3 million goats, 11.6 million sheep, 222,600 donkeys, 23,582 Camel, 14,406 pigs and 5.5 million poultry, summing up to about 42 million mostly indigenous local breeds. 47% and 43% of the whole herds is in the hands of agro-pastoralists and pastoralists respectively.

The other remaining 10% is kept by the smallholder livestock keepers in urban and peri-urban centres.  When this number is tallied against the country’s estimated human population of 13 million, South Sudan is one of leading countries with livestock wealth per capita in the region. However, when such per capita is equated into the benefits to individual or households’ standard of living, there is incomparable different in the sense that minimal benefits are harness and enjoyed by the livestock keepers/pastoralists due to several factors.

            Summarised table for livestock population in South Sudan (AU-IBAR)

1 Cattle 17,729,188
2 Goats 12,307,686
3 Sheep 11,682,172
4 Donkeys 222,671
5 Camel 23,582
6 Pigs 14,406
7 Poultry 5.5 million
  TOTAL 41,979,705

Challenges facing the livestock subsector

  1. Livestock Diseases

Having been fortunate enough to have worked in Upper Nile, Jonglei, Warrap, Northern Bahr El Ghazal, Lakes and the Eastern Equatoria States before and the 2013 crisis, endemic and epidemic livestock diseases are the biggest challenges facing both agro-pastoralists and pastoralists communities. Of leading diseases are haemorrhagic septicaemia (HS), anthrax, contagious bovine pleuropneumonia (CBPP), black quarter (BQ), foot and mouth disease (FMD), East Coast Fever (ECF), trypanosomosis, lumpy skin disease (LSD) for cattle, Contagious caprine pleuropneumonia (CCPP), Peste des petit ruminants (PPR) among shoats and new castle disease, coccidiosis and gumboro disease among the poultry, just to mention a few.

Most of these diseases have high morbidity and mortality- spread easily and killed many animals once they outbreaks besides being zoonotic- affecting human being just like animals. Some diseases like East Coast fever (ECF) are new to most places like in Jonglei and the Lakes States in the counties Bor and Awerial where thousands of cattle have been lost and are still losing since when the disease was first introduced in 2006 and 2010 respectively from Western Equatoria.

Some of the diseases are prevented through vaccination e. g CBPP, BQ, HS, and anthrax beside antibiotics that cure or prevent secondary infections, while others like FMD, LSD have no vaccines available in the country. Although some diseases have vaccines and curative drugs, several barriers existed that hinder accessibility, these include poor infrastructure like cold chain systems in most areas, lack of supply (vaccines & drugs), low purchasing power, and weak private sector thus poor coordination among others.

With the high prevalence of livestock diseases, pastoralists incur lost through the death of animals, increase the management costs through drugs and consultations, reduce the market value of the animals, reducing milk, blood and meat production, all these affect food and nutritional security and alleviate poverty levels among the pastoralists and their dependents.

2. Inadequacy of skilled personnel

Generally, South Sudan has the low number of qualified livestock personnel in rural areas. This could be due to several reasons like few personnel with livestock related-training, low hiring capacity by governmental departments, unconducive working conditions in the rural areas and poor motivational terms. Lack of skilled personnel in rural areas has affected services delivery and flow of information from the government agencies or non-governmental organization (NGO) and the pastoralists’ communities.

Implementation of recommended policies like massive vaccinations is always left to traditional leaders to convince their communities through their loyalty but not through professional knowledge of advantages that come with vaccination of entire herds. This has continues affected smooth and procedural implementation of well-thought policies thus lowering gains from the livestock subsector.

3. Conflicts and Insecurity

Conflicts whether political, economic or social including cattle rustling have seriously affected the performance of livestock sector through displacements of both the livestock and their owners, death both livestock owners and livestock directly or indirectly, diseases outbreaks, destruction of livestock facilities, poor utilisation of grazing and watering points, disrupting access to animal health services and emaciation among others.

Several conflicts and major wars have been endured by the pastoralists in South Sudan since pre-independence Sudan, Post Addis Ababa agreement era, Sudan People’s Liberation Movement struggle till the recent post-independent war. These wars have greatly reduced and affected the livestock sector-wide performance.

Conflicts like wars affected livestock performance in the sense that skilled livestock personnel is either killed or displaced, livestock herds depleted due to conflict-induce hunger, livestock death due to killing or diseases and markets disrupted. E.g. Several livestock related facilities like cold chain, markets, slaughter slabs are destroyed and traditional migration routes and watering points are disrupted by recent 2013 conflict as livestock disease outbreaks were reported in several locations across the cross, livestock markets shrunk and animals died due to emaciation or diseases thus lowering the returns on investments among pastoralists and sector stakeholders like livestock traders, agro-vet shops operators.

4. Poor and inadequate infrastructures

Weak and poor statuses of means of communications like livestock facilities (cold chain), roads, railways among other means of transportation affect livestock services delivery. As most areas and locations in the country lack the basics road networks like feeder roads that connect pastoralists areas with urban centres, delivery of services during the most time of the year is difficult if not impossible, this gets worse when there are massive rains, making accessibility almost impossible.  This has affected timely delivery of livestock services e.g. drugs, vaccines and extension services among others to target pastoralists populations, lowering livestock productivity and profitability.

Livestock infrastructures like markets, handling facilities and watering points are limited. Pastoralists don’t have established and known marketing channels and thus end up selling their stock to middlemen who also sells to brokers at different levels. Lack of international markets affects the pastoralists’ return on their investments and their connectivity to better services like new brands of drugs, equipment, and tools.

With up to 80% of South Sudan population depending on pastoralism for their livelihoods, provision of watering points for both the pastoralists and their livestock is major factor as they need water in order to survive, reproduce and produce. This is crucial especially during dry seasons for areas without flowing streams or rivers.

5. Inappropriate policies and poor funding

During the liberation war, International humanitarian agencies introduced a Community-based Animal Health Workers System (CAHWs) that identify capable people among the pastoralists. The selected individuals were trained on animal health and production basics to help them in the identification of basics livestock diseases and how to treat such diseases. These people (CAHWs) have achieved tremendously like eradication of rinderpest of which the last case was found in Southern Sudan around 2005 and the whole world declared rinderpest free in 2011.

With the signing of CPA, improvement in policies was expected but no major policy breakthrough has been made whether, in relation to diseases control, development of human resource, or establishment of livestock research institute but till now little has been done. Continuation of such programme as Community-Based Animal Health Workers System (CAHWs) would be a policy because trainees/products of CAHWs are now the ones running livestock dockets at counties.

Poor funding of MARF, related departments and institutions of higher learning that are research-oriented has greatly affected the general performance of livestock sector. Due to inappropriate or incomplete policy orientation and insufficient funding, research as well the dissemination of the new knowledge has been very low. Development of sector components like dairy, meat, poultry, hides & skins and fisheries products processing has been delayed when these sectors were supposed to have stabilized by now.

6. Limited research and development

Currently, there are no dedicated public livestock research facilities established that have to spearhead the research and development of new knowledge and disseminate it. Institutions like the universities are engaged in very limited researches, thus there are no well tested and adapted technological packages specific to South Sudan. There are very limited extension services and extension workers that are in contact with the pastoralists and the few that are available are not in coordination with government agencies.

This has compelled pastoralists to stick with their old ways of doing things thus limited returns from the pastoralism. As most of the livestock herds in the country are local indigenous breeds, performance has remained low as pastoralists are still vulnerable to food insecurity, malnutrition, increasing poverty levels.

In order to improve livestock subsector performance, there is high need conduct livestock census as this will help in planning developing policy direction for the country, to develop institutional capacity (Infrastructural, Managerial, diagnostics, diseases control strategy and operational capacity) of Ministry of Animal Resources and Fisheries (MARF), restructuring of state policies and strategies to the national policies and strategies, reviewing livestock development policies, legislation and regulations, establishing of livestock research institutions to foster development of dairy, meat commissions and emerging enterprises like bee and aquaculture.

The author, Abraham Biar Gai, is a MSc student in Livestock Production Systems from the University of Nairobi in Kenya. You can reach him via his email: biargai1985@gmail.com

The opinion expressed here is solely the view of the writer. The veracity of any claim made is the responsibility of the author, not PaanLuel Wël: South Sudanese Bloggers (SSB) website. If you want to submit an opinion article, commentary or news analysis, please email it to paanluel2011@gmail.com. PaanLuel Wël website (SSB) do reserve the right to edit or reject material before publication. Please include your full name, a short biography, email address, city and the country you are writing from.

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