A workshop on Animal Genetic Resources in Sub-Saharan Africa was recently held in Gaborone, as an ILRI-SLU capacity building Project in collaboration with the FAO, AU/IBAR and Team Africa. The workshop ran from 26 to 29 November 2013 with the main objectives of catalyzing and enhancing regional collaboration in order to improve training in animal breeding and genetics for sustainable use of Animal Genetic Resources (AnGR), plan and undertake research for development in prioritized areas of AnGR and improve capacity development including outreach activities in the relevant areas among others.
The workshop focused on strengthening national and regional structures for the management of farm animal genetic resources, and attracted participants from the SADC region and is co-hosted and supported by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), The Swedish University of Agriculture (SLU), the African Union Inter African Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR) and FAO in partnership with the Tertiary Education for Agriculture Mechanism (TEAM-Africa), (Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM), the SADC Secretariat and CCARDESA.
Professor Jan Philipsson, representing The Swedish University of Agriculture (SLU) pointed out that livestock is extremely important, not just in Botswana but also to the rest of the region. “A research was made and it showed that there is a still lot of work that needs to be done in animal genetics in the region” Philipsson said.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Animal Genetic Resource Branch representative Paul Boettcher, stated his delight at the existence of the workshop saying that it signifies great interest in genetic resources, something that could greatly benefit not only Africa, but the rest of the world.
The relevance of the initiative to Botswana was stated by the Deputy Permanent Secretary who said, “Livestock accounts for 80% of the Agriculture GDP, mostly from cattle, and you are all aware of the sophistication it takes to supply the delicate EU markets. Dr. Motsu, the Director of Animal Production, added on to say that the Tswana Breed semen is stored in the local gene bank and is available for research especially for enhancement.
During the workshop it was revealed that there was a need for the design and implementation of an improved conservation and breeding programe which would improve livelihoods and food security in farming communities.
The low input breeding scheme situation analysis showed limited livestock recording and low enrollment, proving that there is potential for regional collaboration and need for proper design of schemes for different species. A need for regional collaboration on herd improvement, growth on on-going initiatives and strengthening the animal production sub-committee was established by the SADC.
The ILRI-SLU general AnGR issues for discussion included among others, the prevention of breeds from being at risk, the use of resources for conservation of inferior breeds and investment in improvement of still promising breeds, conservation of genes or genotypes, controlled cross breeding and globalization in the use of breeding materials. They stated the safest way of conserving a population as to keep developing it, and to include capacity building at all levels. ILRI-SLU stated that in record keeping, feedback from the farmer is very vital and that if the records are not used then it makes the research useless.
FAO stated the need for countries to manage their AnGR as being, Livestock diversity is essential to food and livelihood security; livestock provide meat, milk, eggs, fibres, skins, manure, draught power, and a range of other products and services; livestock contribute to the ecosystems in which they live, providing services such as seed dispersal and nutrient cycling; and genetic diversity underpins the many roles that livestock fulfil and allows people to keep livestock under a wide range of environmental conditions. They mentioned that challenges included limited capacity in animal production and breeding, not enough data on AnGR and lack of effective livestock policies.