Deputy Director, Field Operations
Ministry of Agriculture, Morrovia, Liberia
The population of Liberia is estimated at 2.2 million of which 77.4 percent are citizens and 22.6 percent aliens, and the surfacer area is 111 400 km2. The climate in Liberia is very humid and tropical with an annual rainfall that varies from 1800mm in the north to 5000mm along the coast.
Liberia's economy with reference to industries is predominantly dependent on food processing and other light industry; the major crops are rice, cassava, coffee, cocoa and sugarcane. Mineral resources include diamonds, iron, gold, and other important resources are rubber and timber.
Liberia's small ruminant (sheep and goats) population has been estimated to be between 600 000 and 700 000 head with the highest in Bong and Nimba countries, approximately the central areas of Liberia. The breeds are indigenous and consist of the Djallonke breed of sheep and the West African dwarf breed of goats.
The village system of management, with free roaming of sheep and goats and almost no health care even at kidding or lambing, is the most common system of production in Liberia.
Levels of husbandry are poor and there is an inevitable high mortality rate. The market for sheep and goats in the villages is minimal except during festive occasions and there is no organized marketing system available for the sale of small ruminants.
In consideration of this and the state of agricultural development in Liberia, the Ministry of Agriculture initiated the establishment of the Central Agricultural Research Institute (CARI), a semi-autonomous institute that undertakes applied and adaptive research in the fields of crop and animal sciences.
The major study so far was conducted to determine the production parameters of local sheep and goats reared under a semi-intensive management system based on the use of improved pasture.
The average productivity estimates of sheep and goats after the 3 years were as follows:
|Lambing and kidding percentage||142.2%||200 %|
|Twinning percentage||20 %||80 %|
|Average birth weight||3.4 1b||2.8 1b|
|Average weaning weight||25 1b||23.1 1b|
|Lamb and kid viability||75 %||65 %|
|Ram and buck (male goat) weight||46.7 1b||42.5 1b|
|Average age (ram and buck) at first service||9 months||8 months|
|Average ewe and doe at 1st lambing and kidding||15 months||16 months|
|Gestation period||148.9 days||147.7 days|
|Average litter size||1.2||1.6|
|Average weight at maturity (17 months)|
The next study to be undertaken will be to make a comparative study of the Institute-based animals and of the village free roaming system. During this study, it intended to not only collect and quantify the bio-parameters of small ruminants reared under the traditional village free roaming system but also to analyse various constraints and positive and negative factors under the local production system (village level).
It cannot be forgotten that sheep and goat development strategies need to be correlated with other social aspects. Recent endeavours have focussed on alternative energy projects in villages using animal faeces in biogas digesters. It is therefore envisaged that if the management systems are upgraded, the population will not only benefit from meat production but also from the utilization of the waste matters through recycling technologies.