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There is growing evidence that improving the productivity of subsistence, smallholder and emerging farmers operating on a noncommercial level has the potential to address poverty in agriculturally based economies, while the more commercialized (industrialized) production systems remain in balance with the natural environment. Africa is one of the centers of domestication and is richly endowed with a large number of indigenous breeds that have adapted to the continent's prevailing conditions.

Animal Genetic Resources (AnGR) for food and agriculture are essential parts of the biological basis for Africa food security, and contribute to the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people. Farmers that live in low potential and unfavourable agricultural areas depend directly on ecosystem biodiversity for their livelihoods and AnGR are major component of this biodiversity as they are one of the most common assets among rural households in Africa.

A diverse resource base is critical for human survival and well-being, and constitutes a vital contribution to the eradication of hunger. AnGR are crucial in adapting to changing socioeconomic and environmental conditions, including climate change. The adaptability of species and breeds to extreme conditions of drought, humidity, cold and heat, make human livelihoods possible in some of the most inhospitable areas where crop production cannot be exclusively depended upon.

The propose action is in line with the EU Food Security Thematic Program (FSTP) (2011–2013) as it will strengthened governance approaches for food security through policy and strategy formulation and support their implementation, strengthen the institutional capacity of Member States (MS) and Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and facilitated information sharing on sustainable use and conservation of AnGR.

The legislative framework governing the management of AnGR and the conservation of the habitat of endemic ruminant livestock on the international level is laid down by a range of legal instruments adopted by all African countries. The key instruments include: (i) the Global strategy on the management of domestic animal genetic resources that advocates the implementation of AnGR management plans and establishment of partnerships between relevant bodies to promote sustainable management of such resources; (ii) the June 1992 Rio Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is the core instrument on the conservation, sustainable and equitable management of biodiversity. It has been ratified by all the countries in the project targeted areas; (iii) the Carthegena Protocol on Biosafety pursuant to the Convention on Biodiversity that provides for the establishment of a legal instrument on biotechnology risks resulting from trans-border movement of living modified organisms resulting from modern technology that may have adverse effects on biodiversity conservation and sustainable management; (iv) The International Community in 2007 adopted the Global Plan of Action (GPA) as the main strategy to ensure sustainable utilization of AnGR and halt their erosion. The GPA contains four Strategic Areas: a) Characterization, inventory and monitoring of trends and associated risks; b) Sustainable use and development; c) Conservation; and d) Policies, institutions and capacity building; (v)Within the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Decision to regulate trans-boundary transhumance between member states adopted in 1998, institutes an international ECOWAS Transhumance Certificate. The certificate seeks to control cattle on departure, protect local herds and notify the people of the cattle destination beforehand. Although policy-makers of the region have recognized the key role of local livestock breeds in scaling up production and income and poverty alleviation as well as sustainable natural resource management, there are significant legal and regulatory lapses that explain the persistent discrepancy between biodiversity conservation policies and local ruminant management strategies. While genetic dilution is considered one of the major threats to local ruminants, there are no laws or regulations to prevent crossbreeding between the different livestock breeds. The project will support the countries in the drafting of relevant legislation thereon.

AU-IBAR has been mandated to lead the livestock sub sector of the CAADP which cuts across the four CAADP pillars. In the framework to mainstream livestock in the CAADP pillars developed by AU-IBAR, sustainable utilisation of AnGR is a Priority Area under Pillars 3 on food security and 4 on research and information dissemination based on the following strategies: characterization of indigenous AnGR, data collection, analysis and establishing of gene banks, development of guidelines for protection and promotion of endangered animal breeds, facilitating and coordinating the setting up and maintenance of gene banks, development of guidelines and policies for harmonization, selection, regulation, intellectual property rights and transfer of new genetic technologies and products, molecular genetics of resistance to diseases, adaptation to environmental stress, development of technologies for multiplication, conservation and preservation of AnGR.