The Case of the Pong Tamale Breeding Station in Northern Region
Ghana has basically five agro ecological zone (Rain Forest, Deciduous Forest, Transitional Zone, Coastal Savannah and Northern Savannah (Guinea and Sudan Savannah). The zones classification are based on climate, which determine the natural vegetation and influenced by the soils (Ghana Agriculture facts and figures, 2016). Hence each zone is most suited for a particular agricultural system, product and production reflected by their relative and comparative advantage.
Northern Ghana and for that matter the three Northern regions is Northern Savannah (Guinea and Sudan Savannah). The characteristic features of the zone are one rainy season, harmattan, grassland, sparsely spaced and short trees, shrubs and browse plants and frequent bush fires. The nature of the zone makes it the most suitable for ruminant livestock production and development. Hence the establishment of a Multi-Specie National Breeding Station in Pong Tamale in the Northern Region.
The Pong Tamale Multi-Specie Livestock Breeding Station is one of the six nucleus national breeding stations under the Animal Production Directorate mandated to improve genetically various livestock species in the country. The other five breeding stations are Babile in Upper West Region for Ashanti Black Forest pig improvement, Kintampo in the Brong-Ahafo Region for Goats and the Ejura Sheep Nucleus Centre station in Ashanti Region. The Nungua farm also a Multi-specie non-ruminant nucleus breeding station for pigs, rabbits and grasscutters and Amrahia nucleus dairy farm for milk cattle development, both in the Greater Accra Region.
The Pong Tamale Livestock Breeding Station was established as a farm by the British in 1930’s and covers a total area of about 62 sqkm, approximately 6,000 hectares or 15,000 acres (Pong Tamale Livestock Breeding Station Brochure, 2013).
The mandate of the station is to breed and supply genetically improved animals to livestock farmers. The main objective of the station is to make available to livestock farmers genetically superior tested rams, bucks and bulls in the open nucleus breeding scheme model. The station is also the nucleus centre for the West African Shorthorn breed which is a tolerant or resistant breed to tsetse fly transmitted trypanosomes or the disease “Sleeping Sickness” in Human.
As a multi-specie breeding station, it keeps the Sahelian sheep and goats, Djallonke’ sheep and the Large white pig all geared at providing superior stock to livestock producers are affordable and competitive prices.
The station for many years has played a critical role in the implementation of several projects and programmes under various funding in the country. Such projects and programmes are the National Livestock Services Project; National Agricultural Research Project; National Agricultural Extension Project; Smallholder Rehabilitation Development Project; and the Agricultural Services Sub-sector Investment Programme. In recent times, the station has facilitated the implementation of the Livestock Development Project and the Guinea fowl project under FAO sponsorship and the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Programme (WAAPP).
The Government in the 2019 Budget mentioned the roll out of Rearing for Food and Jobs (RFJ), the objective of which is to increase the production of selected livestock, especially poultry. The Budget Statement and Economic Policy of the Government of Ghana for the 2019 Financial Year.Pp105) placed emphasis on poultry because the country spend $374 million to import poultry. However, the $374 million was just for poultry, the importation of other livestock protein source products to meet the domestic protein requirement was not mentioned.
In the document Agriculture in Ghana: Facts and Figures (2016 Pp. 42) live importation of some livestock species mostly from Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger are cattle 23,575, sheep 13,854 and goats 16,900. Similarly the importation of beef was 5,868.63 metric tonnes, mutton 1,432.15 metric tonnes, pork 922.29 metric tonnes and milk 21,393.33 metric tonnes in 2016.
The RFJ will be the livestock component under the flagship programme to promoting agricultural production and productivity dubbed Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ) in the country. The RFJ is hoped will create jobs and employment along the livestock value chain and reduce the importation of poultry because soy bean and maize from PFJ will feed into the poultry sector.
Thinking aloud, could there be an integrated approach to ensure sustainable production where the agro by-products from PFJ such as rice straw, maize stover and soy stalk or stubble are transformed into livestock feed to support RFJ livestock feeding and the livestock generating manure to fertilize farm lands under PFJ? Additionally, for instance, rice straw and the maize stover could be urea treated to enhance their nutrient level particularly of nitrogen for livestock supplementation. .
The RFJ, however, should avoid the mistake of the five year US$26 million Ghana Poultry Project (GPP)funded by the United Department of Agriculture (USDA) because the emphasis was placed on poultry in the budget.
The Ghana Poultry Project did not cover the three northern regions. Unfortunately, no valid reason was given by ACDI VOCA, the main implementing entity of the Ghana Poultry Project. The project also excluded local poultry production and more importantly guinea fowl. However, livestock, local poultry and guinea fowl production is helping address for food, nutrition and income insecurity in the three northern regions mostly classified as the poorest, deprived and most poverty stricken in the country.
Finally, one is tempted to ask how will Pong Tamale Multi-Purpose Livestock Breeding Station and the five other breeding stations with vast experience, expertise and skills and other livestock professionals be harnessed and leveraged to see to the success of Rearing for Food and Jobs (RFJ)?