This working paper reviews and documents sheep research projects/activities in Ethiopia and provides an overview of major research outputs, dissemination of research results, impacts on the sheep industry, and the gaps in research. Thoughts on the future directions of sheep research are also presented.
Sheep research and development in Ethiopia dates back to the early 1960s, and has focused on characterization of genetic resources, description of farming systems, genetic improvement, introduction and evaluation of forage species, development of feeding packages, identification of diseases and parasites, development of health interventions, and marketing studies.
Research on identification, classification and description of sheep resources of Ethiopia began in the 1970s with the classification of the sheep populations into broad categories of tail and fibre types; molecular characterization has been a relatively recent development. While Ethiopian sheep are now well characterized, further research may be required to fill gaps in previous projects.
A number of research projects to improve the production environment (feeding, health) have been conducted, resulting in generation of new technologies and information. The impact of these research projects on the sheep industry has been quite notable in some cases. These include adoption of improved forages in some areas, identification and mapping of geographical and agro-ecological prevalence of economically important diseases, vaccine development, and design of health interventions (e.g. strategic deworming regimens and vaccination for viral diseases).
The existing documentation system for research and development projects and their outputs is not systematic and the information is not readily accessible, making a comprehensive appraisal difficult. While the review reported here is not exhaustive, it can be seen that numerous research projects have been undertaken. A wealth of information and numerous technologies have been generated.
Some of the research outputs have been published in technical publications and journals, annual reports and progress reports. While technologies have been demonstrated to end users through farmers’ field days and promoted through pamphlets and brochures, uptake by end users remains low. There are also gaps in the research and development endeavours (e.g. breeding programs are not coordinated).
This calls for a revisiting of the organization and functioning of the sheep research and development system. The links between research and development wings of the livestock sector need to be strengthened for effective dissemination of research outputs.