Based on the success of the livestock policy hubs in developing livestock sectors in other countries, the concept is being tried in Ghana through the Reinforcing Veterinary (VET-GOV) Governance in Africa programme.
The programme is being implemented in partnership with the regional economic committes and the Food and Agriculture Organisation.
Although livestock production has a huge potential to create jobs for many, it remains largely untapped due to diseases and others factors. As a result, the country continues to import livestock products to meet the growing demand for animal protein.
Ghana imports large numbers of livestock from neighbouring countries including Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali, even though it has the needed environment to increase its livestock production.
According to records at the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA), in 2011, Ghana imported 9,384 cattle from neighbouring countries. The number increased to 23,622 in 2012.
Inaugurating the hub, the deputy Minister of Food and Agriculture in charge of livestock, Dr Ahmed Yakubu Alhassan, said it was time to tackle the constraints and take advantage of the opportunities in the livestock sector.
'This is the opportune time since the national livestock policy hub consists of multi-sectorial stakeholders with diverse backgrounds in livestock issues who will bring together and share their rich experiences and knowledge in order to contribute to the livestock development agenda of the government,' he stated.
In 2012, the country's total imports for all types of meat products (beef, chicken, mutton, pork, turkey and milk products), according to figures from MoFA, was 122,446 metric tonnes.
The figure is far less than local slaughter data for sheep, cattle, goats and pig which stands at 31,809 metric tones.
Apart from the problem of low production which is preventing the country from attaining self-sufficincy in meat production, diseases among livestock also affect production figures.
In 2012, there were 243 outbreaks of the Newcastle disease which affected 17,753 birds, thereby affecting poultry production. 1,439 sheep and goats were also affected in a total of 161 outbreaks of peste des petits ruminants (PPR), a disease that affects ruminants.
Dr Philip Salia, the acting Director of Veterinary Services, said the hub will operate as a network of stakeholders interested in and committed to improving the institutional environment at the national and regional levels to provide effective and efficient animal health services in the country.
The Director in charge of Animal Production at the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Mr Asare Mensah, urged members of the hub to do their best to ensure that the country increased its livestock production.
Dr Anothony Nsoh-Akunzule, the National Livestock Policy Focal Point, stated that the hub would help find a lasting solution to problems that come with Fulani herdsmen crossing Ghana's borders to feed their animals while causing damage to farms.
Other participants encouraged the ministry to create the avenue for the exportation of hay to drought-prone countries, including Niger, where inadequate grass for domestic animals was killing livestock.
By Seth J. Bokpe/Daily Graphic/Ghana