Nov 132013
 

Jeremy Ouedraogo, Minister of Livestock and Fisheries, Burkina Faso

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Diana Brandes-van Dorresteijn

Jeremy Ouedraogo, Minister of Livestock and Fisheries in Burkina Faso, attended a Regional Capacity Development Workshop in Animal Genetic Resources in Sub-Saharan Africa, held in the capital of Ouagadougou, 4 to 6 November, 2013.

Sub-Saharan Africa has only a handful of qualified livestock breeders and geneticists. Regional collaboration among scientists and institutions in this area provides rare opportunities to exchange information, pull together resources, network with other professionals, and partner strategic organizations.

Addressing more than 75 representatives from 22 sub-Saharan countries before meeting with the UN Secretary General Ban-Ki-Moon on 6 November, Minister Ouedraogo highlighted the need for regional cooperation among individuals and institutions given the region’s scarcity of qualified livestock breeders. He pointed out the urgent need for more appropriate breeding strategies and schemes that will ease access by poor farmers herding livestock in harsh environments to superior livestock germplasm. He thanked ILRI and its partners for supporting Africa’s Global Action Plan on Animal Genetic Resources, which was endorsed by African governments in 2007.

The minister referred to collaboration between ILRI and partners that has effectively built investments, programs and capacity in this area. Best practices must be captured for replication and scaling up, he said. While research should benefit local communities, he said, the scale of the impacts of research depend largely on whether national policies, national budget allocations and national development plans reflect the importance of better use of native livestock resources and allocate funds for developing national capacity in this area.

The minister encouraged the workshop participants to engage actively with those developing a second State of the World’s Animal Genetic Resources report, due to be published by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in 2014.

APM 2013: How can we unlock the genetic potentials of local livestock breeds?

The workshop was organized by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU). In partnership with FAO, the African Union–Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR) and the Tertiary Education for Agriculture Mechanism for Africa (TEAM-Africa), ILRI and SLU are holding regional back-to-back workshops this November in Burkina Faso, Rwanda and Botswana. The purpose is to strengthen regional platforms boosting knowledge exchange, collaboration and capacity in improved conservation and use of Africa’s animal genetic resources.

CGIAR and ILRI have worked together with SLU for a decade to develop capacity in animal genetic resources work. Groups of selected ‘champions’ of this work have been given training in their home institutions by the ILRI/SLU project to advance animal genetic resources teaching in higher education and research work within and outside the university.

Abdou Fall

Abdou Fall, ILRI representative for Burkina Faso and West Africa (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan)

In an opening address to the workshop, Abdou Fall, ILRI’s country and West Africa’s regional representative, commended the strong representation from 22 countries in the region: from Senegal to Congo and from Benin to Ivory Coast, Guinea Bissau and Niger.

This geographic breadth’, Fall said, ‘should help provoke dynamic discussions on better and more sustainable use of Africa’s livestock breeds and genes and the capacity development programs that underpin this.

Training has long been a central element in the capacity development approaches ILRI and SLU have taken to strengthen Africa’s use of animal genetic resources; indeed, for many partners and donor organizations, Fall said, this training has been a hallmark of the project’s achievements over the past decade. But Fall highlighted that capacity development work in CGIAR/ILRI goes beyond training and transferring knowledge and skills to individuals, and now embraces work effecting change in organizations, institutions, cultures and sectors.

Fall said capacity development activities can serve sustainable use and appropriate management of the continent’s diminishing livestock genetic resources only if they are embedded within broader policies, strategies and frameworks. ILRI takes a systems approach to capacity development, he said, which addresses up front institutional and organizational shortcomings and regulatory and cultural barriers to sustainable development.

Progress in this kind of capacity development work is measured at the following three levels:
Environment: The policies, rules, legislation, regulations, power relations and social norms that help bring about an enabling or disabling environment for sustainable development;
Organization: The internal policies, arrangements, procedures and frameworks that enable or disable an organization to deliver on its mandate and individuals to work together to achieve common goals
Individual: The skills, experience, knowledge and motivation of people.

Taking such a systems perspective, Fall explained, requires finding the right balance between, on the one hand, responding to expressed demand for agricultural research-based knowledge and interventions, and, on the other, jumping on emerging opportunities and innovations with potential for accelerating agricultural development.

This workshop should help AU-IBAR increase its animal genetics work through a 5-year project funded by the European Union and through strengthened collaboration with FAO in this area. Outcomes of the 4-day Burkina Faso workshop — including lessons learned from the past, a prioritized list of new topics/problems for new MSc and PhD students to take on, a list of key messages, and action plans for animal genetic resources work in Western Africa — will help lay the foundations of the West African Platform on Animal Genetic Resources.

More information on ILRI’s contribution to capacity development for animal genetic resource work can be found here: http://mahider.ilri.org/handle/10568/16393 and here http://agtr.ilri.cgiar.org

About ILRI
ILRI is one of 15 CGIAR research centres and 16 multi-centre research programs located around the world and dedicated to reducing poverty and improving food security, health and nutrition, and natural resource management. Like other CGIAR centres, ILRI leads, co-leads or supports cutting-edge research on sustainable agriculture and designs, conducts and monitors in-country research-for-development programs and projects with the aim of producing international public goods at scales that make significant difference in the lives of the world’s poorest populations. ILRI does this work in collaboration with many public and private partners, which combine upstream ‘solution-driven’ research with downstream adaptive science, often in high-potential livestock value chains engaging small- and medium-sized agri-businesses and suppliers. In this work, ILRI and its partners are explicitly supporting work to meet the UN Millennium Development Goals and their successor (now being formulated), the Sustainable Development Goals.

ILRI envisions a world where all people have access to enough food and livelihood options to fulfill their potential. ILRI’s mission is to improve food and nutritional security and to reduce poverty in developing countries through research for efficient, safe and sustainable use of livestock, ‘ensuring better lives through livestock’.

Diana Brandes-van Dorresteijn is a staff member in ILRI’s Capacity Development Unit.

 
May 102013
 

Sheko calf kept in the Ghibe Valley of Southern Ethiopia (photo credit: Jim Richardson)

The above photo, taken by National Geographic photographer Jim Richardson, is of a Sheko calf kept in the Ghibe Valley of southern Ethiopia. The Sheko cattle breed is endangered, with only about 2,500 in existence today. They are a valuable breed because of their ability to resist diseases (African animal trypanosomiasis, related to human sleeping sickness) transmitted by Africa’s tsetse fly. The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) is protecting, studying, and breeding Sheko cattle in Ethiopia.

Read more here about ILRI’s work to conserve animal genetic resources of developing countries.

 

 

Nov 112011
 

The Animal Genetics Training Resource (AGTR) is a unique, ‘one stop’, user-friendly, interactive, multimedia resource, targeted at researchers and scientists teaching and carrying out research in animal biodiversity and genetics.

It is a dynamic training resource designed to help inform the design and implementation of breeding programmes and provide information that will empower countries and institutions to undertake their own research. It covers established and rapidly developing areas, such as genetic based technologies and their application in livestock breeding programmes.

Core modules in the AGTR are:

  1. Global perspectives on animal genetic resources for sustainable agriculture and food production;
  2. Improving our knowledge of tropical indigenous animal genetic resources;
  3. Sustainable breeding programmes for tropical farming systems;
  4. Quantitative methods to improve the understanding and use of animal genetic resources; and
  5. Teaching methods and science communication.

The modules are supported by over 40 case studies that summarize real-life experiences and capture indigenous knowledge and lessons learnt from developing countries. The case studies also illustrate principles and methodologies commonly applied in animal genetics, from real-life situations and they highlight knowledge gaps appropriate for post-graduate theses or further research.

A linked breed information tool incorporates all the breeds highlighted in the modules/case studies. Practical examples, exercises, compendia, a library with full-text articles, and links to relevant web resources are included. It also has links to many other information sources on and related to AnGR, including the Domestic Animal Genetic Resources Information System (DAGRIS: http://dagris.ilri.cgiar.org) and the Domestic Animal Diversity Information System (DAD–IS: http://dad.fao.org). A high quality and accuracy of the contents of the AGTR is assured through an external review process by subject matter specialists.

View the Resource online at http://agtr.ilri.cgiar.org

AGTR is a joint product of ILRI and SLU – the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (www.slu.se)

The first version of AGTR was released as a CD in October 2003. It included the first versions of the five training modules, case studies and breed information focused on livestock breeds mainly in Africa and to a small extent in Asia. It also included a few exercises, two video clips and a library of 50 documents.

The second version, released in 2006, was more expansive and comprehensive than Version 1. It was made available both as a CD and on the Web, and included additional information for Asia as well as for Africa.
Version 3 is online in November 2011 on a fully web-enabled platform, which allows for direct online revisions and content comments by authors. CD versions of the same will be prepared in 2012. Significant changes have been made to the content of the Modules. All of the case studies were externally reviewed and subsequently revised, and new case studies have been added. Software manuals for word processing and presentation have been updated, and an example of using the statistical software ‘R’ (freely available) has been added. The greatly enhanced multimedia section now includes links to film and clips by ILRI, as well as pictures of numerous livestock breeds.

Jul 222011
 

There is more livestock diversity in Africa than on any other continent. Some indigenous breeds of cattle, goats and sheep are disease resistant, and others can withstand feed and water shortages. But most are less productive than some imported breeds and so do not meet farmers’ needs.

Millions of poor livestock keepers are importing animals, or cross-breeding their local animals with imported breeds to get more productive livestock. But imported breeds need expensive care because they are much less hardy, and animal deaths are increasing. There is a danger that many of Africa’s indigenous livestock breeds will disappear, just as climate changes and population growth are making their hardy traits increasingly important for food security across the region.

This film tells the story of an unusual research and development project working to increase understanding of a disease-resistant cattle breed of West Africa along with what is needed to improve the marketing and processing of their products. This information will then be combined with better feeding and breeding schemes, farmer training and policy changes to make indigenous animals more profitable for poor farmers, so that the important genetic traits of these native breeds are not lost forever.

Watch a new 15-minute film produced by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI): Livestock under threat: Managing the future of native West African ruminant livestock, 29 Jun 2011.

Jun 202011
 

This short (5-minute) film, ‘Battling a Killer Cattle Disease’, produced by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), provides background and context for a recent research breakthrough made at ILRI’s animal health laboratories in Nairobi, Kenya, and at their partner institutions in the UK and Ireland. The research was funded over 7 years in large part by the Wellcome Trust in addition to the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).

Trypanosomosis is a wasting disease of livestock that maims and eventually kills millions of cattle in Africa and costs the continent billions of dollars annually.

In 2011, a group of geneticists at these collaborating institutions identified two genes that enable Africa’s ancient N’Dama cattle breed to resist development of the disease trypanosomosis when infected with the causative, trypanosome, parasite.

The team members were able to make use of the latest gene mapping and genomic technologies because they had the genetic systems and experimental populations of livestock in place to do so as these technologies came on stream.

Eventually, these results should make it easier for livestock breeders in Africa to breed animals that will remain healthy and productive in areas infested by the disease-carrying tsetse fly.

The international team that came together in this project is an example of the disciplinary breadth as well as agility needed to do frontline biology today. In this work, the team developed several new research approaches and technologies that were needed to unravel some fundamental biological issues, with likely benefits for many African farmers and herders.

Those interviewed in the film include Harry Noyes, at the University of Liverpool; Alan Archibald, at the Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburgh; Andy Brass, at the University of Manchester; and Steve Kemp and Morris Agaba, at ILRI.

May 182011
 

Cow suffering from trypanosomosis

Cow suffering from trypanosomiasis (photo credit: ILRI/Elsworth).

An international research team using a new combination of approaches has found two genes that may prove of vital importance to the lives and livelihoods of millions of farmers in a tsetse fly-plagued swathe of Africa the size of the United States. The team’s results were published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The research, aimed at finding the biological keys to protection from a single-celled trypanosome parasite that causes both African sleeping sickness in people and a wasting disease in cattle, brought together a range of high-tech tools and field observations to address a critical affliction of some of the world’s poorest people.

With increased surveillance and control, sleeping sickness infections in people have dropped ten-fold in the last 13 years, from an estimated 300,000 cases a year in 1998 to some 30,000 in 2009, with the disease eventually killing more than half of those infected. Although best known for causing human sleeping sickness, the trypanosome parasite’s most devastating blow to human welfare comes in an animal form, with sick, unproductive cattle costing mixed crop-livestock farmers and livestock herders huge losses and opportunities. The annual economic impact of ‘nagana,’ a common name in Africa for the form of the disease that affects cattle (officially known as African animal trypanosomiasis), has been estimated at US$4–5 billion.

In a vast tsetse belt across Africa, stretching from Senegal on the west coast to Tanzania on the east coast, and from Chad in the north to Zimbabwe in the south, the disease each year renders millions of cattle too weak to plow land or to haul loads, and too sickly to give milk or to breed, before finally killing off most of those infected. This means that in much of Africa, where tractors and commercial fertilizers are scarce and prohibitively expensive, cattle are largely unavailable for tilling and fertilizing croplands or for producing milk and meat for families. The tsetse fly and the disease it transmits are thus responsible for millions of farmers having to till their croplands by hand rather than by animal-drawn plow.

‘The two genes discovered in this research could provide a way for cattle breeders to identify the animals that are best at resisting disease when infected with trypanosome parasites, which are transmitted to animals and people by the bite of infected tsetse flies,’ said senior author Steve Kemp, a geneticist on joint appointment with the Nairobi-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the University of Liverpool.

This genetics of disease resistance research was led by scientists from ILRI in Africa and from the UK universities of Liverpool, Manchester and Edinburgh, and involved researchers from other institutions in Britain, Ireland and South Korea.

The researchers drew on the fact that while the humped cattle breeds characteristic of much of Africa are susceptible to disease-causing trypanosome parasites, a humpless West African breed, called the N’Dama, is not seriously affected by the disease. Having been domesticated in Africa some 8,000 or more years ago, this most ancient of African breeds has had time to evolve resistance to the parasites. This makes the N’Dama a valued animal in Africa’s endemic regions. On the other hand, N’Dama cattle tend to be smaller, to produce less milk, and to be less docile than their bigger, humped cousins.

African agriculturalists of all kinds would like to see the N’Dama’s inherent disease resistance transferred to these other more productive breeds, but this is difficult without precise knowledge of the genes responsible for disease resistance in the N’Dama. Finding these genes has been the ‘Holy Grail’ of a group of international livestock geneticists for more than two decades, but the genetic and other biological pathways that control bovine disease resistance are complex and have proven difficult to determine.

The PNAS paper is thus a landmark piece of research in this field. The international and inter-institutional team that made this breakthrough did so by combining a range of genetic approaches, which until now have largely been used separately.

‘This may be the first example of scientists bringing together different ways of getting to the bottom of the genetics of a very complex trait,’ said Kemp. ‘Combined, the data were like a Venn diagram overlaying different sets of evidence. It was the overlap that interested us.’

They used these genetic approaches to distinguish differences between the ‘trypano-tolerant’ (humpless) N’Dama, which come from West Africa, and ‘trypano-susceptible’ (humped) Boran cattle, which come from Kenya, in East Africa. The scientists first identified the broad regions of their genomes controlling their different responses to infection with trypanosome parasites, but this was insufficient to identify the specific genes controlling resistance to the disease. So the scientists began adding layers of information obtained from other approaches. They sequenced genes from these regions to look for differences in those sequences between the two breeds.

The team at Edinburgh conducted gene expression analyses to investigate any differences in genetic activity in the tissues of the two cattle breeds after sets of animals of both breeds were experimentally infected with the parasites. Then, the ILRI group tested selected genes in the lab. Finally, they looked at the genetics of cattle populations from all over Africa.

Analyzing the vast datasets created in this research presented significant computational challenges. Andy Brass and his team in the School of Computer Science at the University of Manchester managed to capture, integrate and analyze the highly complex set of biological data by using workflow software called ‘Taverna,’ which was developed as part of a UK e-Science initiative by Manchester computer scientist Carole Goble and her ‘myGrid’ team.

‘The Taverna workflows we developed are capable of analyzing huge amounts of biological data quickly and accurately,’ said Brass. ‘Taverna’s infrastructure enabled us to develop the systematic analysis pipelines we required and to rapidly evolve the analysis as new data came into the project. We’re sharing these workflows so they can be re-used by other researchers looking at different disease models. This breakthrough demonstrates the real-life benefits of computer science and how a problem costing many lives can be tackled using pioneering E-Science systems.’

To bolster the findings, population geneticists from ILRI and the University of Dublin examined bovine genetic sequences for clues about the history of the different breeds. Their evidence confirmed that the two genes identified by the ILRI-Liverpool-Manchester groups were likely to have evolved in response to the presence of trypanosome parasites.

‘We believe the reason the N’Dama do not fall sick when infected with trypanosome parasites is that these animals, unlike others, have evolved ways to control the infection without mounting a runaway immune response that ends up damaging them,’ said lead author Harry Noyes, of the University of Liverpool. ‘Many human infections trigger similarly self-destructive immune responses, and our observations may point to ways of reducing such damage in people as well as livestock.’

This paper, said Kemp, in addition to advancing our understanding of the cascade of genes that allow Africa’s N’Dama cattle to fight animal trypanosomiasis, reaffirms the importance of maintaining as many of Africa’s indigenous animal breeds (as well as plant/crop varieties) as possible. The N’Dama’s disease resistance to trypanosome parasites is an example of a genetic trait that, while not yet fully understood, is clearly of vital importance to the continent’s future food security. But the continued existence of the N’Dama, like that of other native ‘niche’ African livestock breeds, remains under threat.

With this new knowledge of the genes controlling resistance to trypanosomiasis in the N’Dama, breeders could screen African cattle to identify animals with relatively high levels of disease resistance and furthermore incorporate the genetic markers for disease resistance with markers for other important traits, such as high productivity and drought tolerance, for improved breeding programs generally.

If further research confirms the significance of these genes in disease resistance, a conventional breeding program could develop a small breeding herd of disease-resistant cattle in 10–15 years, which could then be used over the next several decades to populate Africa’s different regions with animals most suited to those regions. Using genetic engineering techniques to achieve the same disease-resistant breeding herd, an approach still in its early days, could perhaps be done in four or five years, Kemp said. Once again, it would be several decades before such disease-resistant animals could be made available to most smallholder farmers and herders on the continent.

‘So it’s time we got started,’ said Kemp.

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See this news and related background material at ILRI’s online press room.

The International Livestock Research Institute (www.ilri.org) works with partners worldwide to help poor people keep their farm animals alive and productive, increase and sustain their livestock and farm productivity, and find profitable markets for their animal products. ILRI’s headquarters are in Nairobi, Kenya; we have a principal campus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and 13 offices in other regions of Africa and Asia. ILRI is part of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (www.cgiar.org), which works to reduce hunger, poverty, illness and environmental degradation in developing countries by generating and sharing relevant agricultural knowledge, technologies and policies. This research is focused on development, conducted by a Consortium (http://consortium.cgiar.org) of 15 CGIAR centres working with hundreds of partners worldwide, and supported by a multi-donor Fund (www.cgiarfund.org).

The University of Liverpool (www.liv.ac.uk) is a member of the Russell Group of leading research-intensive institutions in the UK. It attracts collaborative and contract research commissions from a wide range of national and international organizations valued at more than £110 million annually.

The University of Manchester (www.manchester.ac.uk), also a member of the Russell Group, is the largest single-site university in the UK. It has 22 academic schools and hundreds of specialist research groups undertaking pioneering multi-disciplinary teaching and research of worldwide significance. According to the results of the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise, the University of Manchester is now one of the country’s major research universities, rated third in the UK in terms of ‘research power’. The university has an annual income of £684 million and attracted £253 million in external research funding in 2007/08.

Jan 142011
 

State of the World: Innovations that Nourish the Planet: Cover State of the World 2011 provides new insight into under-appreciated innovations working right now on the ground to alleviate hunger (photo credit: Worldwatch Institute).

This week Worldwatch Institute released its flagship publication, State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet. The report spotlights successful and efficient ways of alleviating global hunger and poverty.

Agricultural systems analyst Mario Herrero and other staff of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) are the authors of Chapter 14, ‘Improving food production from livestock’.

While investment in agricultural development by governments, international lenders, and foundations has escalated in recent years, it is still nowhere near what is needed to help the 925 million people who are undernourished. Since the mid-1980s when agricultural funding was at its height, agriculture’s share of global development aid has fallen from over 16 per cent to just 4 per cent today.

‘The international community has been neglecting entire segments of the food system in its efforts to reduce hunger and poverty,’ said Danielle Nierenberg, co-director of Worldwatch’s Nourishing the Planet project.

State of the World 2011 draws from hundreds of case studies and first-person examples to offer solutions to reducing hunger and poverty.

For example, grassroots organizations are helping to fight hunger in Africa, which has the world’s largest area of permanent pasture and the largest number of pastoralists and 15–25 million people dependent on livestock. In South Africa and Kenya, pastoralists are preserving indigenous varieties of livestock that are adapted to the heat and drought of local conditions—traits that will be crucial as climate extremes on the continent worsen. In Maralal in the northern region of Kenya, one group of Maasai pastoralists is working with the Africa LIFE Network to increase their rights as keepers of both genetic diversity and the land. Jacob Wanyama, coordinator for the African LIFE Network and advisor to the Nourishing the Planet Project, says Ankole cattle—a breed indigenous to Eastern Africa and traditionally used by pastoralists in the area for centuries—are not only ‘beautiful to look at,’ but are one of the ‘highest quality’ breeds.’ They can survive in extremely harsh, dry conditions—something that’s more important than ever as climate change takes a bigger hold on Africa. ‘Governments need to recognize,’ says Wanyama, ‘that pastoralists are the best keepers of genetic diversity.’

The State of the World 2011 report is accompanied by other informational materials including briefing documents, summaries, an innovations database, videos, and podcasts, all of which are available at www.NourishingthePlanet.com.

In conducting this research, Worldwatch’s Nourishing the Planet project received unprecedented access to major international research institutions, including those like ILRI in the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research. The team also interacted extensively with farmers and farmers’ unions as well as with the banking and investment communities.

This report was produced with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Nov 222010
 

The worm-resistant red Maasai sheep of East Africa

Research groups at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) are helping Maasai livestock herders in East African to retain their native 'hairless' (non-wool producing) red Maasai sheep, which are genetically resistant to infections with gastro-intestinal worms (photo credit: ILRI). 

Half of the world's livestock herders live with their animals on the vast rangelands of Africa, which comprise half of Africa's surface. Herders have always adapted to variable weather, but over the next 50 years, pastoralist areas will face more and more changes.

What’s the future for Africa’s 50 million livestock herders who live on lands too marginal for cropping as our climate changes, becomes less predictable, heats up? How can scientific research help remote pastoral communities? 

Among the poorest of the world’s poor, herders supply milk and meat not only for themselves but for large numbers of other poor people. Although their animals produce few of the greenhouse gasses harming the earth, these people will be among those most hurt by the climate changes we expect. 

Population growth and land degradation are already causing problems over much of the continent’s traditional rangelands. Many herders, having lost all their animals to droughts, are facing the end of their way of life. 

Research-based approaches for adapting to climate change, however, offer options that can help herding communities sustain at least some aspects of their pastoral livelihoods.

These options include:

  • using satellite imagery to provide the first-ever drought insurance for pastoral herders in Africa's remote regions
  • cross-breeding an indigenous disease-resistant sheep breed kept by Maasai communities with higher-producing exotic sheep to get the benefits of both
  • helping communities shift from keeping grazers, such as cattle and sheep, to browsers, such as camels and goats
  • supporting pastoralists to take advantage of local opportunities, such as shifting from herding ruminant animals to raising fish in ponds.  

The experiences in this film, alongside other initiatives will be presented by Mario Herrero, a scientist with ILRI, at the 2010 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancun, Mexico from 29 November to 10 December 2010, to show how ILRI is applying research to help livestock-based communities cope with the effects of climate change.

Watch this new 10-minute ILRI film, Heat, Rain and Livestock: Impacts of Climate Change on Africa's Livestock Herders, to find out more.

See more of ILRI's films.

Find out more about the 2010 United Nations Climate Change conference.

See related article: New partnership launched to keep climate change from crippling food production in Africa and Asia, 19 November 2010.

Nov 042010
 

Hmong girl hold native black chicken of Viet Nam A native black pig of Viet Nam

Left: A Hmong girl, 13-year-old Hi Hoa Sinh, holds a native black chicken in the village of Lung Pu, northern Viet Nam; Right: One of Viet Nam’s native black pigs on the farm of Ma Thi Puong, near the northern town of Meo Vac (photo credit: ILRI/Mann).

A project funded by the Global Environment Facility has selected Vietnam, a country with a wealth of livestock diversity, as one of four countries in which to implement a project to conserve livestock genotypes.

The diversity is deteriorating due to the popularization of new breeds together with the commercialization of livestock production. To preserve indigenous livestock breeds, the Global Environment Facility and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) have selected 4 countries—Vietnam, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka—to implement the project ‘Developing and applying supporting tools on the conservation and sustainable utilization of the genetic diversity of livestock and their wild relatives.’

Vietnam’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has made the National Institute of Animal Husbandry as the Vietnamese partner in the project.

The project aims to enhance livestock keepers’ awareness of the importance of the genetic conservation of indigenous livestock while helping them to raise their incomes through adoption of indigenous livestock breeds. The project is being implemented over 4 years (2010–2012) in Vietnam’s Son La and Bac Ninh provinces, with a focus on indigenous chicken and pig breeds. The project will train farmers on survey methods and data collection; on ways to maintain their use of indigenous animals; on livestock management; and on business skills in such areas as as tourism with traditional cuisine and cultural activities.

Basic information about valuable indigenous breeds and representative animals is needed, as is the capacity to prioritize, monitor and manage them at both scientific and farm operational levels. Stakeholder groups need to be empowered with knowledge and conducive operational environments in which they can make decisions that work best for them.

Agriculture in the partner countries in this project contributes 20 to 26% of gross domestic product, of which livestock contributes approximately 15 to 20% in terms of income, insurance, food (meat, milk, eggs), hides/skin, traction and manure. It is mostly smallholder farmers who are dependent on indigenous breeds. These animals have evolved in diverse tropical environments and possess valuable traits such as disease resistance, adaptation to harsh environments, including heat tolerance and ability to utilize poor quality feeds, attributes essential for achieving sustainable agriculture in low-input production systems. However, it is still largely unknown which breeds hold significant genetic diversity or specific genes that should be targeted for conservation and/or incorporation into breeding programs. In the meantime, crossbreeding with exotic breeds is increasing and indigenous breeds are being lost.

The development objectives of this project are to help conserve the indigenous livestock of the partner countries for future generations and to help increase the contribution these native breeds make to the livelihoods of poor people. The first goal of the project is to develop and to make available effective tools to support decision making for the conservation and sustainable use of indigenous farm animals and their wild relatives in developing countries.

For more information, see the project’s description on ILRI’s Biotechnology Theme webpage.

Oct 222010
 

Farmer Ma Thi Puong feeds her pigs on her  farm near the northern town of Meo Vac.

The Farm Animal Genetic Resources Project is encouraging wider use of native Asian chicken, goat and pig breeds to help sustain the livelihoods of poor farmers (photo credit: ILRI) 

A Farm Animal Genetic Resources Project conducted by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and other partners to conserve indigenous livestock breeds in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Vietnam has been recognized by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) as one of eleven global projects ‘assisting farmers in developing diversified and resilient agricultural systems to ensure communities and consumers have more predictable supplies of nutritious food.’

The ILRI project is featured in an UNEP booklet launched on Tuesday 19 October 2010 during the tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, taking place in Nagoya, Japan.

Securing sustainability through conservation and use of agricultural biodiversity: The UNEP-GEF contribution provides lessons from projects about useful tools for conserving and managing agricultural biodiversity over the long term. The report features project partnerships among UNEP, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and national and international organizations conducted over the last 10 years.

The ILRI-led and GEF-funded US$6.4-million Farm Animal Genetic Resources Project was started in 2009 to better conserve local breeds of chickens, goats and pigs that help sustain the livelihoods of poor farmers and the health and well-being of women and children in Asia.

As much as 10 per cent of the world’s livestock breeds have disappeared in the last six years, due mostly to substitution or cross-breeding of local indigenous animals with exotic commercial breeds. Most of the extant indigenous livestock breeds today are found in pastoral herds and on small farms in developing countries. Understudied and insufficiently documented, many of the strengths and potential benefits of these tropical local breeds remain untapped.

The Farm Animal Genetic Resource Project works to encourage wider use of local breeds, such as the Bengal goat in Bangladesh. Each of the four countries where the project is implemented has a long history of use of indigenous livestock and a rich diversity of animals, including the wild relatives of domestic livestock, which provide additional genetic resources for breeding programs to improve domestic animals.

ILRI’s project partners include the Bangladesh Agricultural University; the Pakistan Agricultural Research Council; the University of Peradeniya, in Sri Lanka; and the Vietnamese National Institute of Animal Husbandry, with more organizations expected to join the project later. By the time the project is completed, in 2014, these partners aim to have developed breeding tools for use in low-input livestock production systems, cost-benefit analysis tools for comparing breeding programs for different indigenous breeds and populations, and analytical frameworks for assessing policy and marketing options for farm animal genetic resources.

So far, with the input of local actors, including farmers, researchers and development agents, the Farm Animal Genetic Resources Project has developed baseline survey tools for assessing animal genetic biodiversity and constraints to its conservation. These tools will also be used to assess marketing opportunities for indigenous animals and the contributions these animals make to rural livelihoods. The project has also developed a flock and herd monitoring tool that helps to measure genetic and phenotypic diversity, to track genetic changes in livestock populations over time, and to capture the relations between indigenous domesticated animals and their wild relatives.

Mohamed Ibrahim, ILRI’s coordinator of this Asia project, says that the project is increasing the capacity of local institutions to collect and analyse data related to indigenous livestock breeds. ‘Our goal,’ says Ibrahim, ‘is to ensure that important chicken, goat and pig breeds in the four targeted Asian countries are protected for the future benefit of local farmers’.

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Read the complete report on the following link: http://www.unep.org/dgef/Portals/43/AgBD_publication_FINAL.pdf

And find out more about the Farm Animal Genetic Resources Project on their website: http://www.fangrasia.org; and partner websites: www.fangrbd.org, www.fangrvn.org