Livestock development in Sierra Leone - - SLARI boss urges research scientists to think out of the box

March 24, 2015 With Alusine Sesay &Ibrahim Jaffa Condeh

While responding to challenges highlighted by livestock scientists in both the Bombali and Koinadugu districts, the Director General of the Sierra Leone Agricultural Research Institute (SLARI), Dr. Joseph M.Kargbo, told researchers that the reality of human life is that there are always problems and challenges, and that the preoccupation of a researcher is to think hard about them and find ways to solve them, adding that should the human brain be put into positive use, it can perform wonders.

“As somebody who was brought up here and did some research work at the time the two stations were fully operational before I went abroad for further studies, I can fully understand and appreciate the contrast between those hey days and the magnitude of work now involved in normalising those needed services following the devastating civil war and other constraining factors,” Dr. Kargbo said.

He also disclosed that while he was ready to provide support from limited government funding to address some of the issues raised, he also prepared to go the extra mile for partners to open their doors to SLARI and encouraged the scientists to first think out of the box by identifying the problems and challenges affecting their respective centres and develop winnable proposals for funding.

Dr. Kargbo was on a familiarisation tour of the Teko Livestock Research Centre (TLRC) in Makeni where he held discussions with stakeholders of the horticulture sub-sector in Kabala and the Musaia Livestock Research Station at Musaia in Folosaba-Dembelia Chiefdom in the Koinadugu District.

“Teko and Musaia did not only play a pivotal role in meeting the protein needs of the country and make handsome contribution to the economy, but served as heritages and means of livelihood for our farmers in the Bombali and Koinadugu districts and the country as whole,” he said.While welcoming and apprising Dr. Kargbo of the situation on the ground at the TLRC and the Musaia Livestock Research Station, Officer-in-Charge, Dr. Saidu Khanu, gave a brief history of the centre.

He said several factors, including lack of funding and the civil conflict, physical infrastructure and manpower, undermined the capability of the two Livestock Centres to effectively and efficiently provide the needed services, with attendant negative impact on widespread malnutrition, loss of livelihood and the rich heritage of our farmers, as well as degrading poverty in both districts.

He however noted that all was not lost as support from the government and other development partners have been harnessed to restore the efficient and effective provision of vital services.

Dr. Khanu informed the SLARI Chief Research Officer about a 109,000 US dollar project proposal submitted to and approved by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

“The overall objective of the proposed project is to improve livestock productivity through the utilisation of Artificial Insemination (A/I) services and the management of animal health and nutrition,” he revealed and added that the expected outputs include capacity development of both laboratories and human personnel, improvement in animal diseases diagnosis and improved animal health, while at the same time incorporating improved animal nutrition.

TLRC Administrative Officer, Kombo Osaio Kamara, in his presentation, catalogued SLARI’s intervention, including the construction of an ultra-modern office complex, two guest houses and a store, rehabilitation of a diagnostic laboratory, construction of a small ruminant shelter, a piggery and shelter for rabbits, already stocked. He also mentioned the rehabilitation of staff quarters and the provision of 100 square meters fencing around the small ruminants shed.

The presentations also took into account development projects currently undertaken by the center, including extension of fence around goats and sheep pen, to form additional two paddocks at Teko; completion of fencing for cattle and goats at Musaia, as well as the rehabilitation of the Musaia livestock station.Young scientists at the centre also presented project proposals which include the effect of improved nutrition (feed supplements) on the performance of N’dama cattle and their crosses, under different production system, population dynamics of tsetse fly Glossina species in smallholder extensive cattle farms in selected districts in Sierra Leone and the construction of solar tent dryers.

At the Horticultural Research Centre in Kabala, the visiting SLARI team and stakeholders discussed the dire need to make the centre fully functional, especially by providing immediate and needed materials, equipment and infrastructure, including offices and staff quarters.

The importance and need to promote horticultural development was highlighted and underscored, and in particular improving the quality of life of women who dominate the sub-sector and earning foreign exchange for the country through the export of quality horticultural products.

Paramount Chief Allie Balasama Marah of Sengbeh Chiefdom expressed his profound appreciation for the development initiative. He said: “The key occupation and livelihood of my people is vegetable and livestock production and therefore any such meaningful intervention is a booster and a welcome idea and will get our fullest support.”

At the Musaia Livestock Station, SLARI’s Director-General Dr. Kargbo and his entourage were briefed on the background to the establishment of the station.

“It is a station of six square miles area with facilities capable of raising up to 5,000 cattle as well as goats and sheep. It used to be a hub for milk and meat production,” narrated Farm Manager of Musaia Livestock Station, Mohamed Barrie.

Barrie also disclosed that the outreach station has accomplished a lot by way of progressively restarting and giving out to farmers the former services of the station.

“We have done some work within the means of the limited available resources, including undertaking artificial insemination of some number of cows and heifers as well as monitoring the performance of the offspring,” he disclosed.

He further explained that the rehabilitation of the perimeter fence and the paddocks were on-going, while the procurement of 20 goats for multiplication had been done, with the construction and completion of the pen to house them, while the rehabilitation of the laboratory and a senior staff quarters have also been completed.

He added that two hand pump wells have also been rehabilitated, as well as the cultivation of maize and other vegetables, plus the erection of a metal gate to prevent cattle from leaving and entering the station.

Barrie also informed the visiting SLARI delegation about challenges the station was grappling with, and urged the need to rehabilitate for livestock dipping facilities, the guest house and piggery; provision of a generator and a freezer for storing needed items, among others.