Resilient disease-resistant, ‘ancient’ West African cattle among breeds at risk of extinction 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.”
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