UN highlights project helping Asian countries to conserve their native livestock and wild relatives

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

Market opportunities for poor Ugandan livestock farmers mapped for first time

Map Showing Economic Opportunities for Poor Livestock Farmers in Uganda

This map from Mapping a Better Future combines poverty rates with milk production data and shows only the poverty rates for administrative areas with milk surplus. By knowing which areas display both high poverty rate and milk surplus, Uganda’s leaders can better provide market opportunities for poorer dairy farmers and target infrastructure investments.

The percentage of the population living below the poverty line is shown from
>dark green (lowest) to > light green (low) to > beige (medium) to > tan (high) to > dark brown (highest).
Gray areas = no data
White areas = outside milk surplus area
Diagonal blue lines = major national parks and wildlife reserves (over 50,000 ha)

To see the original of this and other maps, go here.

A new
 set of maps illustrating possible market 
opportunities for Uganda’s livestock farmers living 
in poverty is being unveiled today. The maps compare for the first time
 2005 poverty levels with livestock data from the 
2002 population and housing census and the 2008 
national livestock census.

‘Seven out of ten households in Uganda own 
livestock, making it an integral part of Ugandans’ 
diet, culture and income,’ said Hon. Hope R.
Mwesigye, Ugandan Minister of Agriculture, 
Animal Industry and Fisheries and co-author of 
Mapping a Better Future: Spatial Analysis and 
Pro-Poor Livestock Strategies in Uganda. ‘The
 maps are meant to guide the government’s future 
investments to reduce poverty while strengthening
the livestock sector.’

Hon. Syda N.M. Bbumba, Uganda Minister of
 Finance, Planning and Economic Development, 
said, ‘Examining the spatial relationships between 
poverty, livestock systems, location of livestock 
services such as dairy cooling plants, and livestock 
disease hotspots can provide new evidence-based 
information to help craft more effective 
investments and poverty reduction efforts.
While Uganda’s total agricultural output has declined, livestock figures have increased dramatically in the last 
decade due to strong domestic and regional demand for livestock products, according to the report.
‘Increased livestock production carries both economic opportunities for Ugandans and greater risk for 
transmission of animal diseases,’ said Nicholas Kauta, Commissioner of Livestock Health and Entomology at 
the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries. ‘The maps included in this report will help
Uganda’s leaders understand market opportunities and, at the same time, target at-risk areas for disease 
outbreaks with appropriate health intervention plans.’
For instance, maps showing milk surplus and deficit areas can highlight geographic differences in market 
opportunities for poor dairy farmers. According to the maps in the report, about 3.5 million people live in 
sub-counties identified as producing more milk than their residents consume, and approximately 0.8 million
poor people live in areas where the demand for milk is greater than supply. This information can help 
policymakers, dairy researchers and development agencies gauge market opportunities and invest in 
infrastructure where it is needed the most.
‘By combining social data and livestock information and analyzing the map overlays, decision-makers from 
different sectors can work together to identify solutions to complex problems facing communities such as 
diseases that affect both people and livestock,’ said Norbert Henninger, senior associate at the World Resources Institute and co-author 
of the report.
John B. Male-Mukasa, executive director of the Uganda Bureau of Statistics, said, ‘Uganda’s government 
acknowledges the importance of livestock to the nation’s economic development and food security, and as 
part of its 2010–2015 National Development Plan, it plans to invest in improved livestock breeds, water
infrastructure and livestock land management. The maps in this report will be useful in identifying the 
regions where investment is needed most dearly.’
Mapping a Better Future is the third installment in a series of publications using maps and spatial analysis to 
reduce poverty in Uganda, following two previous reports that targeted wetlands and water and sanitation.

Download the publication here.

The following institutions were involved in the production of this publication.
The Uganda Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries provides an 
enabling environment in which a profitable, competitive, dynamic and sustainable agricultural and agro-industrial 
sector can develop.
The Uganda Bureau of Statistics is the principal data-collecting, -processing, -analyzing, and -
disseminating agency responsible for coordinating and supervising the National Statistical System.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations leads international efforts to 
defeat hunger. Besides acting as a neutral forum to negotiate agreements and debate policy, FAO is also a
 source of knowledge and information.
The International Livestock Research Institute works at the crossroads of livestock and 
poverty, bringing high-quality science and capacity-building to bear on poverty reduction and sustainable 
development.
The World Resources Institute is an environmental think tank that goes beyond research to 
find practical ways to protect the earth and improve people’s lives.

Imported breeds threaten global livestock biodiversity

Resilient, disease-resistant, 'ancient' cattle are among the African breeds at risk of extinction as imported animals supplant valuable, but less productive, native livestock on the continent.

Urgent action is needed to stop the rapid and alarming loss of genetic diversity of livestock not only in Africa but also throughout the developing world, where a treasure-trove of drought- and disease-resistant animals still exists, according to a presentation made today at a key event in the Australasian region held to mark the UN International Year of Biodiversity.
 
Drs Okeyo Mwai and Gabrielle Persley, from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), in Kenya, warned that investments are needed now to expand efforts to identify and preserve the unique traits of Africa’s rich array of livestock developed over several millennia but now under siege. In a joint paper, they said the loss of livestock diversity in Africa is part of a global 'livestock meltdown'. 
 
Drs Mwai and Persley joined other biodiversity conservation specialists and advocates at the Crawford Fund’s 2010 international conference, “Biodiversity and World Food Security: Nourishing the Planet and Its People,” being held in Parliament House, Canberra, over 30 August to 1 September.
 
“In the industrialized world”, said Dr Mwai, a leader of ILRI's breeding projects, “just six tightly defined breeds already account for 90 percent of all cattle. A 2007 report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) showed that over-reliance on a small number of livestock breeds is resulting in the loss of around one breed every month. FAO also report that some 20 percent of the world's 7616 livestock breeds are now viewed as at risk.”
 
He also noted that in Vietnam, the proportion of indigenous sows dropped from 72 percent in 1994 to just 26 percent 8 years later. In some countries, chicken populations have changed practically overnight from genetic mixtures of backyard fowl to selected uniform stocks raised under intensive conditions.
 
“From Africa to Asia, farmers are increasingly choosing the breeds that will produce more milk, meat and eggs to feed their hungry families and raise their incomes. But we cannot afford to lose altogether breeds that possess genetic attributes that may be critical for coping with increasing threats such as climate change and emerging pests and diseases,” he said.
 
Dr Mwai described a variety of pressures threatening the long-term viability of livestock production in Africa and globally, including rangeland degradation and cross-breeding hardy native stock with “exotic” breeds imported from Europe, Asia and the America.
 
“We need to link local, national and international resources and conserve livestock genetic diversity through dedicated livestock genebanks”, he said. “International livestock genebanks should store frozen cells, semen and DNA of endangered livestock from across the world. It is these genes that will help us feed humanity and cope with unforeseen crises.”
 
Australian Dr Gabrielle Persley warned that Australian livestock producers are likely to lose many benefits in improved production and disease resistance if Africa’s indigenous genetic resources are lost.She explained that livestock genebank collections must be accompanied by comprehensive descriptions of the animals, the populations from which they were obtained, and the environments and local practices under which they were raised.
 
“The necessary technology is already available,” Dr Persley said. “Cryopreservation has been used for years to aid both human and animal reproduction. What’s lacking is a strong policy framework for widespread use of the available technologies to preserve livestock genetic diversity.”
 
She stressed that documenting and conserving the diversity of the world’s remaining cattle, goat, sheep, swine and poultry populations is at least as essential as the maintenance of crop diversity for ensuring future food supplies in the face of health and environmental threats.
 
“Just as we should know which crop varieties are most tolerant to flooding or disease,” she said, “we should know which types of chicken can survive avian flu.”
 
But while crop genes are being stored in thousands of collections across the world and a fail-safe genebank is buried in the Arctic permafrost, she argued, “no comparable effort exists to conserve livestock genes”.
 
Other speakers at this year’s Crawford Fund annual event include:
  • Dr Cristián Samper, Director of the world’s largest and most visited natural history collection, the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution; 
  • Professor Steve Hopper, an internationally recognised Australian plant conservation biologist who is Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, arguably the planet’s most famous garden; 
  • Dr Emile Frison, Director General, Bioversity International, the largest international research organisation dedicated to the conservation and use of agricultural biodiversity;
  • Professor Hugh Possingham, member of the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists and Director of the Ecology Centre at the University of Queensland
  • Dr Megan Clark, Chief Executive, CSIRO.
 
Speakers from Australia, Asia and Africa will also be addressing biodiversity issues in relation to the fields of fisheries, forestry, microbials, biosecurity, genetically  modified organisms and human health.

The common practice of pig-rearing in northeast India would profit from better breeding and feeding programs and greater involvement of women

ILRI India

A woman pig farmer in northeastern India. Pig-rearing there can benefit from better coordinated breeding and greater involvement of women in the sub-sector. (Photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann)

Livestock researchers are recommending improved feeding systems, better coordinated breeding and more involvement of women to increase pig production in poor communities of northeastern India.

In a paper on the pig sector in northeast India, a group including Iain Wright, who leads and coordinates research by the Africa-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Asia, provides detailed analysis of the pig sub-sector in the states of Assam and Nagaland and key recommendations to improve the sub-sector’s productivity and its benefits to farmers. The paper also provides the first systematic review of the pig value chain in the region.

India’s northeastern region has over 3 million pigs, which is about one-quarter of the country’s pig population. Most of the tribal peoples who live in this remote region rely on raising pigs to sustain their mixed farming systems. Farmers here who can take advantage of a growing demand for pork and related products in the region—a rising demand brought about by urbanization and a rising middle class—will be able to increase their incomes from their animal enterprises and escape poverty in one of India’s poorest areas.

The paper notes, however, that the region’s pig sub-sector faces many problems that keep farmers from exploiting the great potential it offers. These challenges include a largely unstructured pig sub-sector, low-producing breeds, insufficient feed resources and little animal health care services. In addition, the infrastructure available for slaughtering pigs and selling pork meat is inadequate, compromising food safety and putting public health at risk.

Following field surveys carried out over several months in 2006 and 2007, researchers are recommending that the region’s pig producers adopt better feeding and management methods, including better use of local feeds and cross-bred pigs. In addition to these traditional approaches to improved livestock production, the researchers are also recommending that more women, who already provide most of the labour in pig rearing at the household level, become much more involved in pig development programs.

These findings are reported in a paper presented in July 2010 at a symposium in Hanoi, Vietnam. The authors also recommend using current venues for pig slaughtering as main entry points for interventions made to increase food safety in the region’s pork supply chain.

The researchers commend on-going efforts by government and donor agencies to create programs that support the pig sub-sector. These efforts include supplying research information, improving breeding stock, and provision of extension services and credit, which are encouraging people to take up pig rearing and introducing better breeds to farmers.

The authors say that breeders should be encouraged to include the region’s indigenous ‘large black’ pig, a breed preferred by most producers, in their breeding programs. Consumer preferences should be studied and built on, the report says, and a planning and coordination group should be established to oversee policies and programs for the region’s pig sub-sector.

‘Some of these recommendations are already being tested or implemented in ongoing work by ILRI and its partners,’ says Wright, ‘but much more can be done to help this region’s millions of smallholder pig-keepers climb out of poverty—and do so on the backs of their backyard pigs.’

The report is available at: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/2233

Study of future of global food cites ways to advance and sustain livestock development

Thornton_AtPressBriefingAtCOP_ByPattiKristjanson_CroppedVeryClose

ILRI systems analyst Philip Thornton, participating in a media panel at the COP15 climate change conference in Copenhagen, December 2009 (photo by ILRI / P Kristjanson).

Publication this week of 21 papers in a special open-access edition of The Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, part of a UK government Foresight study on the future of the global food industry, is causing a bit of a stir. The mass media are focusing on the wilder predictions, such as the possibility that we may be growing meat artificially, in vats, to feed the 9 billion-plus people expected to be alive at mid-century.

But more importantly, this major academic assessment of future global food supplies, led by John Beddington, the UK government chief scientist, argues that although big, the challenge of increasing global food supplies by as much as 70% in the next 40 years is not insurmountable and many of the papers are optimistic.

What is needed in addition to novel approaches to increasing food production, they say, are better uses of an array of low-tech to high-tech solutions, some already available, others needing refinement or a rethink for meeting the needs of the world's vast army of smallholder farmers.

As the Guardian article reports: 'Other papers suggest a radical rethink of global food production is needed to reduce its dependence on oil. Up to 70% of the energy needed to grow and supply food at present is fossil-fuel based which in turn contributes to climate change.

'"The need for action is urgent given the time required for investment in research to deliver new technologies to those that need them and for political and social change to take place," says the paper by Beddington.

'"Major advances can be achieved with the concerted application of current technologies and the importance of investing in research sooner rather than later to enable the food system to cope with challenges in the coming decades," says the paper led by the population biologist Charles Godfray of Oxford University.'

Regarding novel ideas on the horizon, in an interview with the Guardian, Philip Thornton, a scientist with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), based in Nairobi, and an author of one of the papers, said conventional animal breeding may be insufficient to meet the anticipated doubling of demand for dairy and meat products in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, and to do so in sustainable ways. Thornton described two 'wild cards' that could transform global meat and milk production: 'One is artificial meat, which is made in a giant vat, and the other is nanotechnology, which is expected to become more important as a vehicle for delivering medication to livestock.'

But Thornton cautions against holding out hope for any one technology to solve our looming global food insecurity. He says we need to invest now in options across the whole gamut of agricultural development. Livestock development in poor countries, he says, 'will increasingly be affected by competition for natural resources, particularly land and water, as well as competition between food and feed, and by the need to operate in a carbon-constrained economy.' To help the world's 600 million small-scale farmers and herders increase their production and do so more efficiently, he says, will require continuing advances in the three pillars of livestock development–breeding, nutrition, and animal health.

The final Foresight report will be published later this year in advance of the UN climate talks in Cancun, Mexico.

Read more at: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biology, Livestock production: recent trends, future prospects, by Philip Thornton.

The Guardian: Artificial meat? Food for thought by 2050, 16 August 2010

New film makes a case for conserving East Africa’s elegant long-horned Ankole cattle

The genetic diversity of African livestock is increasingly under threat as indigenous livestock varieties are cross-bred, or slowly replaced, with exotic breeds that produce more milk and meat. Exotic livestock varieties are, however, less resistant to African environmental and climatic challenges and are also less resistant to endemic diseases like trypanosomosis (called ‘sleeping sickness’ in people).

The following 3-minute film highlights an initiative supported by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Uganda that is working to conserve purebred Ankole cattle, a breed native in eastern Africa and relied upon by farmers in at least four countries.

In the film, Daniel Semambo, Director of Uganda’s National Animal Genetic Resources Centre and Data Bank, outlines the issues facing many developing countries as they try to improve their livestock productivity and at the same time they try to stem losses of their native livestock breeds and genes.

Les experts avertissent que la disparition rapide du bétail indigène de l’Afrique menace l’approvisionnement alimentaire du continent

N'DamaHerd_WestAfrica

D’ « anciennes » espèces bovines d’Afrique de l’Ouest, résistantes aux maladies, figurent parmi les races qui risquent de disparaître parce que le bétail importé est en train de supplanter un précieux cheptel indigène.

Une action urgente est indispensable pour arrêter la perte rapide et alarmante de la diversité génétique du bétail africain qui apporte nourriture et revenus à 70 % des Africains ruraux et constitue un véritable trésor d’animaux résistants à la sécheresse et aux maladies. C’est ce que dit une analyse présentée aujourd’hui à une importante réunion de scientifiques africains et d’experts du développement.

Les experts de l’Institut international de recherche sur l’élevage (ILRI) ont expliqué aux chercheurs réunis pour la cinquième Semaine africaine des sciences agricoles (www.faraweek.org), accueillie par le Forum pour la recherche agricole en Afrique (FARA), que des investissements sont indispensables aujourd’hui même pour intensifier, en particulier en Afrique de l’Ouest, les efforts d’identification et de préservation des caractères uniques de la riche variété de bétail bovin, ovin, caprin, et porcin, qui s’est développée au long de plusieurs millénaires sur le continent et qui est aujourd’hui menacée. Ces experts expliquent que la perte de la diversité du bétail en Afrique fait partie de « l’effondrement » mondiale du cheptel. Selon l’Organisation des Nations Unies pour l’alimentation et l’agriculture, près de 20 % des 7 616 races de bétail existant dans le monde sont aujourd’hui considérées comme à risque.

« L’élevage africain est un des plus robustes au monde, et pourtant nous assistons aujourd’hui à une dilution, si pas une perte totale, de la diversité génétique de nombreuses races, » dit Abdou Fall, chef du projet diversité animale de l’ILRI pour l’Afrique de l’Ouest. « Mais aujourd’hui, nous avons les outils nécessaires pour identifier les caractéres de grande valeur du bétail africain indigène, une information qui peut être cruciale pour maintenir, voire augmenter la productivité de l’exploitation agricole africaine. »

M. Fall décrit les différentes menaces qui pèsent sur la viabilité à long terme de la production de bétail en Afrique. Ces menaces comprennent une dégradation du paysage et le croissement avec des races « exotiques » importées d’Europe, d’Asie et d’Amérique.

Par exemple, on assiste à un croisement sur une très large échelle de races des zones sahéliennes d’Afrique de l’Ouest et susceptibles aux maladies avec des races adaptées aux régions subhumides, comme le sud du Mali, et qui ont une résistance naturelle à la trypanosomiase.

La trypanosomiase tue entre trois et sept millions de tètes de bétail chaque année et son coût pour les exploitants agricoles se chiffre en milliards de dollars, lorsqu’on prend en compte, par exemple, les pertes de production de lait et de viande, et les coûts de médicaments et prophylactiques nécessaires au traitement ou à la prévention des maladies. Bien que le croisement puisse offrir des avantages à court terme, comme une amélioration de la production de viande et de lait ou une plus grande puissance de trait, il peut également faire disparaître des caractères très précieux qui sont le résultat de milliers d’années de sélection naturelle.

Les experts de l’ILRI déploient à l’heure actuelle des efforts importants en faveur d’une campagne visant à maîtriser le développement d’une résistance aux médicaments chez les parasites qui provoquent la trypanosomiase. Mais ils reconnaissent aussi que des races dotées d’une résistance naturelle à cette maladie offre une meilleure solution à long terme.

Ces races comprennent les bovins sans bosse et à courtes cornes de l’Afrique de l’Ouest et du Centre, qui ont vécu dans cette région avec ces parasites pendant des millions d’années et ont ainsi acquis une résistance naturelle à de nombreuses maladies, y compris la trypanosomiase, propagée par la mouche tsétsé, et les maladies transmises par les tiques. De plus, ces animaux robustes sont capables de résister à des climats rudes. Mais les races à courtes cornes et à longues cornes ont un désavantage : elles ne sont pas aussi productives que les races européennes. Malgré ce désavantage, la disparition de ces races aurait des conséquences graves pour la productivité future du bétail africain.

« Nous avons observé que les races indigènes sans bosse et à courtes cornes d’Afrique de l’Ouest et du Centre font l’objet d’un abatage aveugle et d’un manque d’attention aux bonne pratique d’élevage, et risquent ainsi de disparaître,» explique Fall. « Il faut qu’au minimum nous préservions ces races soit dans le contexte de l’exploitation, soit dans des banques de gènes : leurs caractéristiques génétiques pourraient en effet s’avérer décisives dans la lutte contre le trypanosomiase, et leur robustesse pourrait être un atout essentiel pour des exploitants agricoles qui auront à s’adapter au changement climatique. »

Le Kuri aux grandes cornes bulbeuses du Sud Tchad et du Nord-est du Nigéria fait partie des bovins africains à risques. Non seulement il ne se laisse pas déranger par les piqûres d’insecte mais il est également un excellent nageur, vu qu’il s’est développé dans la région du lac Tchad, et est idéalement adapté aux conditions humides dans des climats très chauds.

Les actions de l’ILRI en faveur de la préservation du bétail africain indigène s’inscrivent dans un effort plus large visant à améliorer la productivité de l’exploitation agricole africaine au travers de ce qu’on appelle la « génomique du paysage ». Cette dernière implique entre autre chose, le séquençage des génomes de différentes variétés de bétail provenant de plusieurs régions, et la recherche des signatures génétiques associées à leur adaptation à un environnement particulier.

Les experts de l’ILRI considèrent la génomique du paysage comme étant particulièrement importante vu l’accélération du changement climatique qui impose à l’éleveur de répondre toujours plus rapidement et avec l’expertise voulue à l’évolution des conditions de terrain. Mais ils soulignent qu’en Afrique en particulier, la capacité des éleveurs à s’adapter aux nouveaux climats va dépendre directement de la richesse du continent en termes de diversité de son cheptel indigène.

« Nous assistons trop souvent à des efforts qui visent à améliorer la productivité du bétail dans la ferme africaine en supplantant le cheptel indigène par des animaux importés qui à long terme s’avéreront mal adaptés aux conditions locales et vont demander un niveau d’attention simplement trop onéreux pour la plus part des petits exploitants agricoles, » dit Carlos Seré, Directeur général de l’ILRI. « Les communautés d’éleveurs marginalisées ont avant tout besoin d’investissement en génétique et en génomique qui leur permettront d’accroitre la productivité de leur cheptel africain, car ce dernier reste le mieux adapté à leurs environnements. »

M. Seré souligne la nécessité de nouvelles politiques qui encouragent les éleveurs et les petits exploitants agricoles africains à conserver les races locales plutôt que de les remplacer des animaux importés. Ces politiques, dit-il, devraient comprendre des programmes d’élevage centrés sur la l’amélioration de la productivité du cheptel indigène comme alternative à l’importation d’animaux.

Steve Kemp, qui dirige l’équipe de génétique et de génomique de l’ILRI, ajoute que les mesures de conservation en exploitation doivent également s’accompagner d’investissements en faveur de la préservation de la diversité qui permettront de geler le sperme et les embryons. On ne peut en effet exiger du seul exploitant agricole qu’il renonce à une augmentation de la productivité au nom de la conservation de la diversité.

« Nous ne pouvons pas attendre de l’exploitant qu’il sacrifie son revenu avec pour seul objectif de préserver le potentiel de diversité, » explique M. Kemp. « Nous savons que la diversité est essentielle pour relever les défis auxquels l’exploitant africain est confronté, mais les caractéres de grande valeur qui seront importants pour l’avenir ne sont pas toujours évidents dans l’immédiat. »

M. Kemp recommande une nouvelle approche pour mesurer les ressources génétiques du cheptel. Aujourd’hui, dit-il, l’estimation de ces caractéristiques porte essentiellement sur des éléments tels que la valeur de la viande, du lait, des œufs et de la laine, mais elle ne prend pas en compte d’autres attributs qui pourraient avoir une importance égale, voire supérieure, pour l’éleveur, qu’il soit en Afrique ou dans une autre région en développement. Ces attributs comprennent la capacité d’un animal à tirer la charrue, à fournir de l’engrais, à faire office de banque ou compte d’épargne ambulant, et d’être une forme efficace d’assurance contre les pertes de récolte.

Mais l’association de ces multiples attributs avec l’ADN d’un animal exige de nouveaux moyens pour rechercher et comprendre les caractéristiques du cheptel dans une région caractérisée par une grande diversité et une grande variété d’environnements.

« On dispose aujourd’hui des outils nécessaires, mais nous avons besoin de la volonté, de l’imagination et des ressources avant qu’il ne soit trop tard, » indique M. Kemp.
 

Experts warn rapid losses of Africa’s native livestock threaten continent’s food supply

N'DamaHerd_WestAfrica

Resilient disease-resistant, 'ancient' West African cattle, such as these humpless longhorn N'Dama cattle, are among breeds at risk of extinction in Africa as imported animals supplant valuable native livestock

Urgent action is needed to stop the rapid and alarming loss of genetic diversity of African livestock that provide food and income to 70 percent of rural Africans and include a treasure-trove of drought- and disease-resistant animals, according to a new analysis presented today at a major gathering of African scientists and development experts.

Experts from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) told researchers at the 5th African Agriculture Science Week (www.faraweek.org), hosted by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), that investments are needed now to expand efforts to identify and preserve the unique traits, particularly in West Africa, of the continent's rich array of cattle, sheep, goats and pigs developed over several millennia but now under siege. They said the loss of livestock diversity in Africa is part of a global 'livestock meltdown'. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, some 20 percent of the world's 7616 livestock breeds are now viewed as at risk.

'Africa's livestock are among the most resilient in the world yet we are seeing the genetic diversity of many breeds being either diluted or lost entirely', said Abdou Fall, leader of ILRI's livestock diversity project for West Africa. 'But today we have the tools available to identify valuable traits in indigenous African livestock, information that can be crucial to maintaining and increasing productivity on African farms.'

Fall described a variety of pressures threatening the long-term viability of livestock production in Africa. These forces include landscape degradation and cross-breeding with 'exotic' breeds imported from Europe, Asia and the America.

For example, disease-susceptible breeds from West Africa's Sahel zone are being cross-bred in large scale with breeds adapted to sub-humid regions, like southern Mali, that have a natural resistance to trypanosomosis.

Trypanosomosis kills an estimated three to seven million cattle each year and costs farmers billions of dollars each year in, for example, lost milk and meat production and the costs of medicines and prophylactics needed to treat or prevent the disease. While cross-breeding may offer short-term benefits, such as improved meat and milk production and greater draft power, it could also cause the disappearance of valuable traits developed over thousands of years of natural selection.

ILRI specialists are in the midst of a major campaign to control development of drug resistance in the parasites that cause this disease but also have recognized that breeds endowed with a natural ability to survive the illness could offer a better long-term solution.

The breeds include humpless shorthorn and longhorn cattle of West and Central Africa that have evolved in this region along with its parasites for thousands of years and therefore have evolved ways to survive many diseases, including trypanosomosis, which is spread by tsetse flies, and also tick-borne diseases. Moreover, these hardy animals have the ability to withstand harsh climates. Despite their drawbacks—the shorthorn and longhorn breeds are not as productive as their European counterparts—their loss would be a major blow to the future of African livestock productivity.

'We have seen in the short-horn humpless breeds native to West and Central African indiscriminate slaughter and an inattention to careful breeding that has put them on a path to extinction', Fall said . 'We must at the very least preserve these breeds either on the farm or in livestock genebanks because their genetic traits could be decisive in the fight against trypanosomosis, while their hardiness could be enormously valuable to farmers trying to adapt to climate change.'

Other African cattle breeds at risk include the Kuri cattle of southern Chad and northeastern Nigeria. The large bulbous-horned Kuri, in addition to being unfazed by insect bites, are excellent swimmers, having evolved in the Lake Chad region, and are ideally suited to wet conditions in very hot climates.

ILRI's push to preserve Africa's indigenous livestock is part of a broader effort to improve productivity on African farms through what is known as 'landscape genomics'. Landscape genomics involves, among other things, sequencing the genomes of different livestock varieties from many regions and looking for the genetic signatures associated with their suitability to a particular environment.

ILRI experts see landscape genomics as particularly important as climate change accelerates, requiring animal breeders to respond every more quickly and expertly to shifting conditions on the ground. But they caution that in Africa in particular the ability of farmers and herders to adapt to new climates depends directly on the continent's wealth of native livestock diversity.

'What we see too often is an effort to improve livestock productivity on African farms by supplanting indigenous breeds with imported animals that over the long-term will prove a poor match for local conditions and require a level of attention that is simply too costly for most smallholder farmers', said Carlos Seré, ILRI's Director General. 'What marginalized livestock-keeping communities need are investments in genetics and genomics that allow them to boost productivity with their African animals, which are best suited to their environments.'

Seré said new polices also are needed that encourage African pastoralist herders and smallholder farmers to continue maintaining their local breeds rather than abandoning them for imported animals. Such policies, he said, should include breeding programs that focus on improving the productivity of indigenous livestock as an alternative to importing animals.

Steve Kemp, who heads ILRI's genetics and genomics team, added that in addition to conservation on the farm, there must also be investments in preserving diversity by freezing sperm and embryos because farmers cannot be asked to forgo productivity increases solely in the name of diversity conservation.

'We cannot expect farmers to sacrifice their income just to preserve the future potential of diversity', Kemp said. 'We know that diversity is critical to dealing with the challenges that confront African farmers, but the valuable traits that may be important in the future are not always immediately obvious.'

Kemp called for a new approach to measuring the characteristics of livestock genetic resources. Today, he said, these estimates focus mainly on such things as the value of meat, milk, eggs and wool and do not include qualities that can be of equal or even greater importance to livestock keepers in Africa and other developing regions. These attributes include the ability of an animal to pull a plough, provide fertilizer, serve as a walking bank or savings account, and act as an effective form of insurance against crop loss.

But associating this wider array of attributes with an animal's DNA requires new ways of exploring and understanding livestock characteristics in a region where there is so much diversity in so many different environments.

'The tools are available to do this now, but we need the will, the imagination and the resources before it is too late', Kemp said.

A frozen zoo in Nottingham ‘bio-banks’ wildlife threatened with extinction

HanotteOlivier_08APM

We thought it appropriate in this United Nations ‘International Year of Biodiversity’ to highlight not only work by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and its partners (see ‘Livestock Diversity Needs Genebanks Too’, an opinion piece by ILRI Director General Carlos Seré published on the SciDevNet website on 21 May 2010) to conserve breeds and genes of native livestock that are rapidly disappearing, but also those of wild animals similarly threatened.

The Frozen Ark is such an initiative. It is led by Olivier Hanotte, an animal geneticist who spent many years at ILRI working to conserve livestock genetic resources indigenous in developing countries. These days Hanotte is running The Frozen Ark Consortium, a worldwide group of institutions coordinated from an office within a Frozen Ark Unit at the School of Biology at the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom: Frozen.Ark@nottingham.ac.uk

The aim of the Frozen Ark is to preserve, for hundreds if not thousands of years, critical information about the species collected. As their website explains: ‘Despite the best efforts of conservationists, thousands of extinctions have occurred before the animals could be rescued. There has not been enough knowledge or money to stem the tide. This pattern is being repeated across all animal groups and emphasises the importance of collecting the DNA and cells of endangered animals before they go extinct. The loss of a species destroys the results of millions of years of evolution. If the cells and DNA are preserved, a very great deal of information about the species is saved. . . . For animals endangered but not yet extinct, the stored DNA and cells can also provide renewable resources of variation for revitalising captive breeding populations when the loss of variation through inbreeding threatens their survival.’

What has caught the public’s imagination is the possibility—a possibility ever more credible in light of ongoing, transformative, breakthroughs in molecular biology, particularly genetics and genomics, as well as drastic falls in the cost of sequencing genomes—that in future scientists will be able to reconstruct extinct animals from such preserved material.

‘While the reconstruction of extinct species from frozen material is not yet practicable, the possibility is not remote,’ says Hanotte. ‘If we fail to preserve the DNA and cells, the information and the possibilities will be lost forever. If DNA is stored in liquid nitrogen at -196 degrees Centigrade, it should survive intact for many hundreds, and possibly thousands, of years.’

The International Union of the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List distinguishes more than 16,000 animal species that are under threat. The Fozen Ark aims eventually to collect the DNA of all these species, and the viable cells (somatic cells, eggs, embryos and sperm) of as many as possible, over the next 50 years. But Hanotte is quick to point out that the Frozen Ark Project is not a substitute for conserving the world’s diverse wildlife species, but is rather ‘a practical and timely backup of their genetic material.’

For more information, visit the Frozen Ark Website.

And watch the online version of this week’s broadcast (30 Mar 2010) of the American television program ’60 Minutes’, which explores the possibility of Resurrecting the Extinct from frozen samples.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions of livestock systems

While livestock production levels in developed countries are holding steady, livestock production systems in developing countries, particularly in the emerging economies, are rapidly changing to meet a rapidly growing demand for livestock foods due to those countries’ growing populations, cities and incomes. Some of these fast-evolving livestock production systems are using ever-larger quantities of water and other natural resources and emitting ever-larger amounts of greenhouse gases, which are causing global warming. Many people are questioning whether the increasing demand for meat and milk in developing countries can be met within equitably negotiated and sustainable greenhouse gas emission targets.

The (surprising) answer is ‘yes’. Research tells us that emissions from livestock systems can be reduced significantly through technologies and policies, along with incentives for their implementation.

Livestock and greenhouse gas emissions

Livestock contribute up to 18% of the global greenhouse gas emissions that are ‘anthropogenic’, or generated by human activity. The main greenhouse gases from livestock systems include methane produced by the belching of animals (25 per cent), carbon dioxide (CO2) produced by uses of land that encourage the decomposition of organic substances (32 per cent), and nitrous oxide (N2O), commonly known as ‘laughing gas’, produced by spreading manure and slurry over lands (31 per cent).

As one would expect with such great differences in livestock production systems in different regions of the world, different systems in different regions emit very different amounts and types of greenhouse gases. Overall, most emissions to date have come from industrialized countries practicing factory farming, the least from developing-country family farms. Moreover, two of the most significant contributors to the greenhouse gases produced by livestock systems in the developing world are the rapidly expanding industrial livestock operations in Asia and deforestation in Latin America to make room for livestock grazing and feed crop production.

That said, however, it is also true that the emissions per animal in poor countries tend to be much higher than those per animal in rich countries, for the reason that most livestock in poor countries are maintained on poor diets that reduce the efficiency by which the animals convert their feed to milk and meat. And the increasing human populations, urbanization and demand for livestock foods in developing countries means that future increases in livestock greenhouse gases will come from the South. Livestock researchers at ILRI and elsewhere are helping people to manage trade offs among natural resource use, livestock emissions and livestock productivity. Seven ways to reduce greenhouse gases emitted by livestock Here are seven practical ideas for reducing the greenhouse gases emitted by livestock.

1 Reduce consumption of, and demand for, livestock foods in developed countries

Whereas under-consumption of livestock foods is a main problem in developing countries, over-consumption of livestock foods—including fatty red meat, eggs and full-fat milk and dairy products—damages the health of many people living in affluent societies. The demand for cheap livestock foods in rich countries in many cases is met by imports of livestock products or feed grains from the developing world, the transport and supplies of both of which can lead to environmentally damaging land-use practices and over-use of water and other natural resources, which in turn increase the levels of greenhouse gas emissions in those developing countries. Reducing the relatively high levels of consumption of livestock foods in the developed world would thus not only help improve the health of many people in rich countries but also reduce environmentally damaging livestock production practices in both rich and poor countries, leading to significant reductions in the emissions of carbon dioxide and methane gases.

This point raises another: to ensure that any negotiated emissions targets that may be established are equitable as well as feasible and useful, we shall also have to institute programs to track and account for the greenhouse gases ‘embedded’ in the many livestock and feed products traded worldwide. Such a system would give buyers of livestock products some understanding of the ‘greenness’ of the products they are buying. Common sense can no longer be our guide. Such are the complexities of modern food chains that beef raised on the pampas of Argentina and shipped to the North American Midwest might, for example, have generated lower levels of greenhouse gases than corn-fed beef raised, slaughtered and packaged right there in the Midwest.

2 Improve the diets of ruminants in developing countries

Providing cattle, water buffaloes, sheep, goats and other ruminant animals in developing countries with better quality diets increases their feed-conversion efficiencies and thus reduces the amount of methane generated in the production of a unit of meat or milk. Many small-scale farmers can, for example, improve the diets of their ruminant animals by better managing their grazing lands: they can rotate the pastures they use, plant improved species of pasture grasses, make strategic applications of animal manure, and develop ‘fodder banks’ of planted legumes and other forages. They can make use of more strategic combinations of available feed resources. Many crop-livestock farmers can supplement the poor grass diets of their animals with the residues of their grain crops after harvesting. (Although many cereal residues are of relatively poor nutritional quality, research by ILRI and the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics shows there is considerable potential for improving the nutritional quality of stover.) And some can give their ruminants feed additives that manipulate the microorganisms living in the rumen to quicken microbial fermentation. What’s needed are practical methods to monitor the effectiveness of mitigating greenhouse gases using these practices as well as policy environments to make implementing them cost-effective.

3 Help farmers in developing countries obtain and maintain higher-yielding breeds

Where resources allow and breeding services exist, replacing low-producing local animals of the developing world with fewer and better fed animals of higher yielding breeds would reduce total emissions while maintaining or increasing livestock yields. Such shifts include keeping more productive types of a given breed, such as by crossing local cows with genetically improved dairy cow breeds to produce cross-bred cows that possess traits both for both hardiness and higher milk yields.

4 Better match livestock species to environments in all countries

Switching species to find those better suited to particular environments and resources could raise animal productivity levels. In some circumstances, exchanging ruminant animals for pigs, chickens and other monogastrics (which possess single- rather than four-chambered stomachs) could reduce total methane emissions, although high amounts of grain used to feed the monogastrics can offset the methane saved. For this reason, alternative feeds and feeding practices for monogastrics urgently need the attention of the research and development communities.

5 Impose regulatory frameworks for managing manure in all countries

Regulatory frameworks could reduce nitrous oxide emissions from manures, particularly by enforcing better management of excreta in the larger livestock operations in developing countries and applications of slurry and manure in the developed countries. Furthermore, developing ways to monitor and verify reductions would open the door to mitigation payment schemes.

6 Apply land-use policies that forestall cultivation of new lands

Some carbon lost from agricultural ecosystems in the past can be recovered. Any management practice that increases the photosynthetic input of carbon and/or slows the return of stored carbon to carbon dioxide via respiration, fire or erosion will increase carbon reserves, thereby sequestering carbon. We can thus reduce carbon dioxide emissions by applying land-use policies that forestall the cultivation of new lands now under forest, grassland or non-agricultural vegetation.

And rangeland and silvo-pastoral livestock systems would store much greater amounts of soil carbon than they do now if we put in place land use and livestock policies and practices suited to local conditions. Such interventions could serve not only to sequester more carbon but also to provide smallholders farmers and herders with payments for the services their local ecosystems provide the wider community.

7 Provide incentives to adopt mitigation strategies, particularly for poor communities

Finally, successful implementation of livestock mitigation strategies, particularly in poor countries with scarce resources, inadequate rural and peri-urban infrastructure, and inappropriate agricultural policies, will demand a series of smart and equitable incentive systems that encourage people to adopt mitigation strategies and practices. Success in these countries will also depend on developing new kinds of links among institutions that have not formerly worked together, on reforming livestock and agricultural policies, on inventing techniques for monitoring carbon stocks, and on developing appropriate and easy-to-use protocols for verifying greenhouse gas emissions. But the lesson ILRI researchers have learned from their pastoral research may prove to be most relevant here: mitigation activities have the greatest chance of success in poor and hungry communities when they build on traditional institutions and knowledge while building up food security.

This is Chapter three of the ILRI Corporate report 2008–09: Download the full report

Improving cattle genetics with in vitro embryo production technology

Livestock scientists from ILRI and the Clinical Studies Department of the University of Nairobi (UON) recently succeeded in breeding Kenya’s first test-tube calf using a technique called in vitro embryo production (IVEP). IVEP makes it possible to rapidly multiply and breed genetically superior cattle within a short generation interval.
Why is this important?
For several reasons. First, livestock is the fastest growing sub-sector in the world, as increasing trends of 114% in demand for meat and 133% for milk attest. To improve on food security, it is essential to double livestock production in the developing world by 2020. IVEP is clearly one of the most efficient ways to accomplish this.

Second, let’s consider the problem of environmental impact. Doubling livestock production through traditional breeding techniques increases pressure on natural resources—water, land and biodiversity. So the need for enhanced efficiency without degrading natural resources is urgent. Again, IVEP, which requires only laboratory equipment in the production process, comes to the rescue.

Third, there is the biodiversity issue. Matching genotypes to environment is crucial. Scientists need to take several factors into consideration—among them adaptation, tolerance for disease, tolerance for new environments and alignment to market development. Although plenty of genetic diversity exists, thus far we’ve done little with it. Once more, IVEP could be the answer.

Fourth, IVEP has significant commercial potential because farmers can rent their best cows as donors and their lower-quality cows as surrogates.

Most importantly, we need to look closely at the constraints faced by small-scale livestock keepers.

  • Cattle genotypes and production environments, as often as not, do not match. Result:  low productivity.
  • Heifer replacement programs take a long time and are rarely done properly. Result: supply is low, prices are high.
  • Sex ratios are often disadvantageous. Result: too many males and high production costs.
  • The commercial relevance of many indigenous breeds is not optimised. Result: farmers incur unsupportable losses.
  • Programs for breed conservation and preservation are often improper. Result: some breeds are threatened by extinction and no gene pool for replacement exists.

IVEP does not—and should not—completely replace traditional reproductive technologies such as conventional embryo transfer (ET) and artificial insemination. Each of these techniques has its place, and each of them utilizes tissues, embryos and semen for improvement and reconstruction of cattle breeds. The difference is that while the traditional ET techniques involve more animals and are wholly done in the field, IVEP is undertaken in the lab and involves fewer surrogate animals in the field. IVEP eliminates the tedious steps of synchronizing donor cows.

Specifically, IVEP technology as a breeding tool has the distinct advantage of maximizing utilization of appropriate dam and sire genotypes by:

  • increasing efficiency of multiplication in breeding;
  • permitting  determination of sex of the offspring; and
  • permitting pre-testing of actual fertility status of the bull.

Thus, while natural mating or artificial insemination are necessarily slow and inefficient, producing only 10-15 offspring per life span of a cow …

…IVEP can produce up to 300 offspring per life span.

The SIFET Project: a successful IVEP program
The Sexed semen in-vitro fertilization and embryo transfer (SIFET) project was designed to exploit and promote the potential of applying IVEP reproductive technique to:

  • develop, multiply and disseminate female crossbreeds that appropriately match with production environment;
  • provide a system to preserve top bovine genotypes in cases of accidental culling in a recycle-like scheme (slaughterhouse collection); and
  • identify, multiply and conserve selected superior desirable breed traits.

The project involved collecting ovaries from slaughter houses or picking ovum from live cows. When the genetic material is brought to the lab, oocytes with high developmental competence are selected and morphological evaluation done. Once the ideal oocytes are identified, they are matured in vitro for 22-24 hours. The subsequent in vitro fertilization process is conducted for a period of 18-22 hours with a high sperm concentration. The fertilization itself requires removal of seminal plasma and extenders, separation of motile sperms from dead ones and induction of sperm capacitation. Once the embryos are formed, they are cultured in the lab for 7 days and then transferred to surrogates.

A conception rate of about 40% has been achieved, with calves born without abnormalities.

Conclusions

  1. IVEP technology is feasible in Kenya.
  2. Commercialization of the process should be facilitated as soon as supportive policies and proper legal/regulatory frameworks are in place

Challenges
Poor field heat detections leading to poor uterine synchrony and lower conceptions are concerns, as is the high genotype variability characteristic of animals brought to slaughterhouses.

Way forward and prospects
Looking ahead, the collaborating scientists anticipate bringing ovum pick-up (OPU) and cryopreservation into the picture as well as capacity building.

Clearly, such programs can help match breeds to appropriate production systems to ensure sound breeding programs. Where and when necessary, new breeds can be introduced within a relatively short period of time. Above all, embryos are far easier to transport across continents than live animals.

Through IVEP technology and well-planned crossbreeding programs such as SIFET that integrate the use of indigenous cows as donors and surrogates while using semen from appropriate (more productive and reasonably adapted) dairy breeds such as Jerseys, F1 heifers suited to the smallholder farmers’ conditions can be produced.

Niche markets for the technology and its F1 products should be further explored and exploited, notably with regard to the potential of forestalling the threat to key wildlife species.

Acknowledgements
Funding for the project was made available by Heifer Project International. UON provided the technical team and recipient animals. Administration and laboratory facilities were provided by ILRI. The cooperation of the abattoirs (the source of ovaries) and the animal owners are gratefully acknowledged. The capacity building program through a joint CNPq grant for the Embrapa-UON-ILRI partnership, as well as support from Dr Luiz Carmago and Dr Joao Viana of Embrapa, are highly appreciated.

The collaborating scientists are Mwai Okeyo, Henry Mutembei and Bridgit Syombua from ILRI; and  Erastus Mutiga, Victor Tsuma and Henry Mutembei from Clinical Studies, UON.

For more information, contact Dr Okeyo Mwai, Animal Geneticist/Breeder, Biotechnology Theme, ILRI, at o.mwai@cgiar.org.

John Vercoe Conference: Animal breeding for poverty alleviation

The John Vercoe Conference and seventh Peter Doherty Distinguished Lecture will take place at ILRI headquarters in Nairobi 8-9 November 2007.
 


The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) Board of Trustees is pleased to announce the John Vercoe Conference and the seventh Peter Doherty Distinguished Lecture. The conference theme is ‘Animal breeding for poverty alleviation – harnessing new science for greater impact’.

The John Vercoe Conference will be inaugurated by the Kenyan Minister of Science and Technology, Hon. Noah Wekesa and thereafter, followed by the presentation of a keynote paper by Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Further topics include:

  • Case studies of breeding programs within developing countries (Christie Peacock, Farm Africa, UK)
  • Breeding program design issues for small-holders (Ed Rege, ILRI)
  • New opportunities for reproductive technologies in developing countries (Johan van Arendonk, Wageningen University, Netherlands)
  • New DNA-based technologies and their prospects for developing countries (Julius van der Werf, University of New England, Australia / Brian Kinghorn)
  • How animal breeding relates to other interventions to reduce poverty (Ade Freeman, ILRI)

The conference will be held at ILRI headquarters in Nairobi on 8-9 November 2007. For further information and to register for the conference, go to the John Vercoe Conference website at: http://www.ilri.org/johnvercoeconference