Senegal sheep sales dip on unrest ahead of religious festival

Reading Time: 2 minutes

The two weeks before Eid al-Adha, when Muslim families traditionally slaughter a ram, are usually busy for Senegalese livestock breeders like Demba Diakhate, who owns a herd of 400 in the north of the country.

But a recent spate of deadly political protests in the West African nation has frightened wholesale buyers and breeders, creating a slump at a regional livestock market.

The unrest, in which at least 16 people were killed and hundreds injured, saw the destruction of businesses including temporary stalls and pens that livestock traders had set up around the capital Dakar in anticipation of bustling trade.

In Dahra Djolof, a major regional livestock trading hub around 260 kilometres (161.56 miles) north of Dakar, Diakhate and other herders said they were also targeted.

“By this time, a significant portion of my livestock should have already been in Dakar. But currently, I am refraining from taking my livestock there out of fear,” Diakhate said, adding that he had three trucks waiting to load his herd of 400 sheep.

Dahra Djolof draws wholesale buyers and hundreds of goat and sheep breeders, some from neighbouring Mauritania and Mali. They bring thousands of herds to its weekly livestock market every Sunday, and to a smaller daily market during the week.

During the Eid al-Adha period, known locally as Tabaski, some bring their animals to the capital to be closer to consumers. But the recent violence has deterred them.

Another herder, Oumar Dioumel Ka, said he was among many herders who had decided not to take their livestock to the capital at all this year.

“Herders had to protect themselves and resorted to using machetes. How can one keep an eye on a hundred sheep while dealing with thieves? Or how can one take their family along and expose them to machete-wielding criminals,” Ka said.

“Going to Dakar to earn money and ending up in fights to save our livestock is not worth it,” he added.

A spokesman for Senegal’s interior ministry said calm had returned to the capital and business activities are resuming. He added that the government would look into any demands from the herders.