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Tanzania is rich in indigenous farm animal genetic resources (AnGRs). In cattle numbers it ranks third in Africa after Ethiopia and the Sudan. The most important classes of livestock to the economy are 15.6m cattle, 10.7m goats, 3.5m sheep and 27m chickens. These supply most of the livestock products. For years to come these will be the main sources of animal products and therefore act as the basis for planning economic development programmes. The majority of the livestock are indigenous types with low genetic potential for traditionally recognized yield attributes. However, considering the "non-value" or "non-market" attributes of various classes of livestock, the contribution they make may be more substantial than is commonly acknowledged when evaluation is based on the characteristics with a market value. There are few clearly defined breeds, but most are described as types with distinct names adopted from the location they thrive in. It is worth noting that there have been no specifically identified institutions for farm AnGRs management in the past. Current efforts were initiated in the past five years and have signalled the beginning of conservation or sustainable utilization of the natural heritage in FAnGRs in the country. For effective management of the endangered breeds, there is urgent need for having an inventory of the resources, establishment of a gene bank and improvement of the National Artificial Insemination Centre (NAIC) to support farm AnGRss management work through cryo-preservation and utilization of appropriate technological advances.


The potential of the livestock sub-sector to contribute to the economy is great as has been depicted in the national statistics (Ministry of Agriculture, 2000). The livestock sub-sector accounts for 30% of the contribution of the agricultural sector to the gross domestic product (GDP), which is in turn estimated to be about 60% of the total national GDP. The country has a vast land area covering climatic zones with varied precipitation from arid or semi-arid to tropical rain forest conditions. The area includes some 60 million hectares of rangeland suitable for livestock production, but only an estimated 40% of it is utilized due to tsetse infestation.

In Tanzania most livestock are kept under the agro-pastoral farming system, in the 'traditional sector' where the farming community may be described as "crop/livestock owners" and accounts for over 90% of the national herd of domesticated ruminants thriving principally on communal grazing. The traditional sector is the main source of livestock products in Tanzania. It is based on mixed species herds with cattle, goats, sheep, chickens, and donkeys as the key animal types. In this system there is competition for resources (land, labour, capital) between livestock and crop production activities. Nevertheless, there is complementarity in the utilization of production system's by-products (farm yard manure to crops as fertilizer, and crop residues to livestock as feed).

A livestock only (pastoralist) system of farming exists in Northern Tanzania, notably in Arusha Region. This is, however, spontaneously evolving into the crop/livestock production system status, with some movement into permanent dwellings where conditions are more favourable for farming. In the transformed system some land is set aside for crop cultivation, while other areas are left fallow to provide grazing, as is the case in the traditional crop- livestock farming system. The livestock sub-sector is also composed of small-scale dairy cattle keepers, characterized by small herd sizes (up to 10 improved cows) and intensive rearing. This is practised mainly where land area is limiting, in densely populated areas of medium to high production potential. On average, milk production per cow is in the range of 5 to 10 litres per day in this system.

In addition, there is a small but fast growing group of livestock keepers clustered in the periphery of townships. This includes "landless livestock keepers" raising their animals in the backyard or in very small land areas in intensive units. They use various management systems, but are based mainly on a cut-and-carry ('zero grazing') system and tethering. These are in many cases public service and private sector employees engaged in farming as an added income generating activity, to augment low incomes from their monthly wages. These have easy access to extension services and to information on input support from the public sector development programmes. Another category of landless farmers is the resource poor which includes female farmers who are not heads of households, youths and retired employees.

The landless livestock keepers are in many cases urban and peri-urban small-scale farmers. They play a major role in supplying animal products, such as milk, eggs and meat to allied urban areas. Among the disadvantaged small-scale farmers are those that have little or no control over land as the major production resource, and own only small animals (local chickens, and sometimes goats, sheep and pigs). They are poor farmers who have limited access to information on production inputs and to extension services that are normally available to other farmers.

The foregoing forms the spectrum of farmer circumstances that the research and extension services in Tanzania strive to address. The diversity in the animal genetic resources in Tanzania is great. The role the animals play is also very variable and depends on farmer circumstances. The awareness of the attributes and potential future uses of the animal genetic resources in the country is one major factor that may lead to appropriate attention on the indigenous genetic resources of Tanzania. Their positive attributes have not been given enough attention and in many instances local breeds have been looked upon as of "unacceptable production levels".

This brief presentation gives an overview of the activities that various stakeholders in Tanzania have undertaken in the area of FAnGRs. It also briefly sheds light on current and future plans on management of FAnGRs.

Economic Importance of Livestock

Tanzania has a wide range of animal genetic resources, wild and tamed. The most important domestic animals in Tanzania, contributing to the economy and well being of the growing human population are 15.6m cattle, 10.7m goats, 3.5m sheep and 27m chickens. They supply most of the livestock products, and, for many years to come, they will be the main sources of animal products and therefore form the basis for planning economic development programmes. Other animals of less importance nationally, but which play a major role in certain parts of the country are donkeys (draft), pigs (meat and fat), guinea fowls (meat and eggs), camels (draft and milk) and rabbits (meat).

The majority of livestock in Tanzania are of the indigenous types with low genetic potential for traditionally recognized yield attributes. There are few specialized animal breeds in commercial herds and flocks, except for poultry where there is a substantial flock of specialized broiler and egg production hybrids. However, considering the "non-market" value attributes of the various classes of livestock, the contribution may be more substantial than commonly acknowledged. Besides the usual products recognized universally (meat, milk, fibre, draft power, etc) farm animals have other functions which are of great importance to the relevant local populations, but are usually overlooked or undervalued. These include use of cow dung as fuel for cooking in arid and semi-arid areas and as building material (plaster for walls). The role of livestock as a means of insurance, against natural hazards and other economic hardships, may be recognized by planners but is hard to assign an actual value to. And yet, in some cases, it is a matter of life and death!

Framework for Animal Genetic Resources Management

Currently the institutions charged with livestock research are spearheading efforts towards characterization and conservation of FAnGRs. These are the Division of Research and Development (DRD) of the Ministry of Agriculture and the Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA - Animal Science Department and Faculty of Veterinary Medicine). Until three years ago there was no formal institutional link between the two institutions in their research and development activities related to animal genetic resources. Since 1999 there have been concerted efforts aimed at linking the two institutions. There has been a memorandum of understanding signed under phase II of the Tanzania Agricultural Research Project (TARP II), under which researchers from both institutions will collaborate in research with common financing. This has enhanced and formalized collaboration between SUA and DRD.

The major aspects of these efforts are in the form of a project supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) through FAO. The project is part of a larger effort under the aegis of the South African Development Community (SADC). This is a short-term project, which will initiate the tailoring of a framework for the national governments to continue with their priority areas after the project period. It is from this project's activities that ideas have been put forward for the future areas of emphasis in Tanzania. The project has a national focal point (NFP) at the Ministry of Agriculture Headquarters, where the National Co-ordinator (NC) is based. The NC runs the activities of the project and provides a link with the other SADC country focal points through a Chief Technical Advisor based at the regional (SADC) focal point in Pretoria. A National Advisory Committee drawing its membership from various stakeholder categories has been appointed by the Ministry of Agriculture to oversee the activities of the project, and the NFP provides its secretariat.

The Ministry of Agriculture has set aside a Livestock Research Centre, West Kilimanjaro, for use as a livestock gene bank. This provides the only institution currently officially charged (at least on paper) with management of livestock genetic material. The intended use of the centre is to keep a nucleus of purebred animals of breeds that are considered "endangered". There has been some funding approved to provide seed money to stock the gene bank farm with endangered breeds of cattle (Mpwapwa) and goats ("Blended"). These will be bred pure in an open nucleus scheme involving farmers as the multiplier herds. The initial stages of the scheme may entail use of contract breeder farmers. It is expected that farmers will be sensitised and empowered to form breeders' associations and run the show later, with only technical support from the gene bank.

It is worth noting that issues pertaining to plant genetic resources in the country are managed by an institution in Arusha, initiated under the SADC "Plant Genetic Resources Centre" based in Lusaka, Zambia. This is an indication that with some effort the initiation of a parallel institution could be commissioned in the near future to deal with FAnGRs.

Another notable development is the decision by the Tanzania Government in November 2000, to reorganize the Ministry responsible for livestock development. The livestock component of the "Ministry of Agriculture and Co-operatives" will be transferred to the "Ministry of Water" and the latter renamed the "Ministry of Water and Livestock Development". This provides a new working environment whose organizational details are yet to be made public by the Civil Service Department. Changes like this one may be necessary in a bid to provide a better working regime for enhanced efficiency. Nevertheless, it appears that the livestock sub-sector has had many such re-organizations in the past two decades. It is hoped that the current change will put more resources at the hands of the planners for livestock development. This may reflect in more resources allocated to activities on management of animal genetic resources, which did not feature in the national budget previously.

Past Activities

Previous work had involved isolated studies on local animal genetic material. Some major crossbreeding research activities were carried out to provide answers to common questions raised by specialized producers, notably of cattle. Work on inventory, characterisation and sustainable utilization of locally available genetic resources did not feature in the early work.

The efforts towards characterization and conservation of farm AnGRs in Tanzania include independent work carried out at Mpwapwa and Sokoine University of Agriculture (Msechu, 1999). Some work co-ordinated from Mpwapwa, but based at Kongwa, focussed on the reproductive cycles of indigenous goats and sheep. The effort was abandoned prematurely due to changes in the policy of the financing source. There may be need to reconsider reviving such efforts after work on breed surveys has been accomplished.

Studies carried out at SUA involved the phenotypic characterisation of indigenous goats (Madubi et al, 1996) and molecular characterisation of cattle and more recently goats, sheep and chickens by the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine (Gwakisa et al, 1997, 2000).

The Ministry of Agriculture has developed a database based on scanty information on ecotypes of various classes of indigenous livestock with the assistance of FAO. This has resulted in getting started on data accumulation on Tanzania's domestic animal diversity through the use of DAD-IS, a computer package accessible through the internet.

Current Activities

In the DRD, the establishment of a gene bank at the Livestock Research Centre in West Kilimanjaro is the major activity on management of farm AnGRs in Tanzania. Another notable activity is that involving deskwork on development of protocols for soliciting support for farm AnGRs activities.

At the University (SUA) molecular work is in progress as well as phenotypic characterization of small ruminants (Gwakisa et al, 2000). Molecular work under the guidance of Professor Paul Gwakisa includes some graduate student projects (MSc and PhD) on various livestock classes.

Future Planned Work

The first meeting of the NACs of the SADC project recommended various activities to be considered as priorities for implementation under the project. Some of the proposed activities were taken up for financing. The rest need financing from other sources. Work that has been approved as part of the project involves breed surveys, for which preparations are underway. The recommended activities from the NACs meeting and a subsequent national awareness workshop held in March 2000 are as follows:

It is planned to carry out a breed survey which has been pending for a while. Another immediate pre-occupation of personnel working on farm AnGRs in Tanzania will be to prepare protocols for soliciting funding for the sustainability of the gene bank and initiation of another Nucleus Breeding Scheme to facilitate community-based breed multiplication of the endangered breeds in Central and Lake Zones of Tanzania with a focal point at Mpwapwa. Initial efforts will need to be made to solicit financial support from local stakeholders to sustain the gene bank and the Nucleus Breeding Schemes.

There is urgent need to update the database of the Tanzania farm AnGRs fed into the global database with FAO support. This will be done using recently generated information. This is expected to add value to the indigenous genetic resources and enhance awareness and improve the chances of success of the conservation effort.

Possible Adjustment in the Institutional Framework

The existing institutional framework for research and development of livestock in Tanzania could and may be adjusted to accommodate the vital aspects of farm AnGRs management. Hence, the planned development of the Livestock Research Centre, West Kilimanjaro, into a live gene bank for livestock breeds considered to be in danger of extinction is in the right direction.

The National Artificial Insemination Centre (NAIC) near Arusha could and may be improved into an institution capable of serving the interests of conservation through the freezing and storage of semen and embryos. The two centres (LRC West Kilimanjaro and NAIC) would combine resources and have complementary roles in working on FAnGRs in Tanzania. The Ministry of Water and Livestock Development will be advised to seek funding for the gene bank.

The Livestock Multiplication Unit (LMU) Mabuki, is a farm that was among those listed for privatisation. At this stage it would appear necessary to reconsider the future use of that farm. If it has not yet attracted the attention of an investor, LMU Mabuki would be suitable as a focal point for an Open Nucleus Breeding Scheme to support community-based multiplication of endangered breeds of livestock. Its infrastructure could easily be adjusted to serve the functions of a research-cum-development unit supporting on-farm multiplication of cattle, sheep and goats.

Concluding Remarks

In concluding this report it is recommended that an effort be made from all possible fronts to increase awareness of the planned activities and the importance of conservation as it relates to biological diversity and animal genetic diversity in particular. The Tanzania government, through the Ministry responsible for livestock development, is urged to consider the suggested adjustments in the institutional framework to support animal genetic resources management activities. The same ministry is urged to make a deliberate effort to have funding for recurrent expenditure for farm AnGRs management activities included in the recurrent annual budget. And also to provide a conducive working environment for carrying out activities on farm AnGRs.


The author wishes to express his appreciation to the organizers of the workshop for the invitation to share experiences with other Southern African countries on the subject of farm AnGRs. Thanks, in particular, to the sponsors for facilitation of travel and subsistence during the Planning Workshop. Lastly, I would further like to thank my employer (Government of Tanzania) for granting me permission to be away from my duty station to attend this workshop and to present this report.


Gwakisa, P.S.; Kifaro, G.C.; Chenyambuga, S.W.; Mbaga, S.H, and Katule, A.M, 2000. Genetic diversity in indigenous livestock populations of Tanzania. Paper presented at the National Awareness Workshop on Management of animal genetic resources in Tanzania. Dar es Salaam Tanzania, 31 March 2000

Gwakisa, P.S.; Marandoe, W. and Teale, A. J. 1997. Genetic diversity and its implications for disease resistance in indigenous zebu cattle in Tanzania. Proceedings of Tanzania Society of Animal Production (TSAP) Annual- Scientific Conference, 24: 242-252

Madubi, M. A.; Kifaro, G.C. and Chenyambuga, S. W. 1996. Physical characterisation of three strains of small East African goats in Tanzania Proceedings of TSAP Annual Scientific Conference, 23:102-115

Ministry of Agriculture, 2000. Basic data - Agriculture and Livestock Sector 1992/93-1998/99', Ministry of Agriculture and Co-operatives, Dar es Salaam Tanzania; August 2000. 66pp.

Msanga, Y.N. 2000. Field guide on farms animal breeds and strains of Tanzania. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, Tanzania; July 2000. 29pp.

Msechu, J.K.K. 2000. Strategy for the management of farm animal genetic resources in Tanzania. Paper presented at the Annual Scientific Conference of Tanzania Society of Animal Production (TSAP). Dar-es- Salaam Tanzania, 2-4 August 2000.

Msechu, J.K.K. 1999. Management of farm animal genetic resources - current status and plans for future action in Tanzania. Paper presented at the First Steering Committee Meeting of the SADC/FAO project on the management of farm animal genetic resources. Pretoria South Africa, 5-8 July 1999.

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