The African Animal resources population is a valuable reservoir of genes for health, adaptive and economic traits, providing diversified genetic pool, which can help meeting future challenges resulting from changes in production systems and market requirements. Despite their importance, many of African animal breeds are either facing extinction or are undergoing rapid genetic dilution. Genetic improvement programs, by both governments, non-governmental organizations, bilateral aid agencies, and the private sector, have favoured the use of exotic breeds for crossbreeding, upgrading, or replacement. These programs have mostly been implemented without clear policies, regulatory frameworks, strategic thinking and a long term view and were motivated mainly by the objective of rapid productivity gain resulting in indiscriminate, uncoordinated or uncontrolled crossbreeding activities. However, the extent and rate of AnGR loss in Africa is still difficult to estimate, despite the clearer picture of AnGR that has emerged in the country-driven preparation of The State of the World's Animal Genetic Resources
On the other hand, very few genetic improvement programs in Africa are based on selection and improvement of indigenous breeds, probably because of their long term impact, which is hardly compatible with the project approach that has so far prevailed in the genetic improvement sector. When they exist, they have tended to focus on single, market driven production traits in isolation of broader livestock system functions with limited involvement of farmers who are the final beneficiaries.
Since the adoption of the Global Plan of Action for the conservation of animal genetic resources, only 4 African countries, in November 2010, have submitted their reports on the implementation of the Global Plan of Action. This is mainly due to the fact that only few countries have developed Action Plans for implementation, and where the Action Plans are developed, low capacity is hindering the implementation.
Taking into consideration the transboundary nature of many breeds and the mobility of animals across national borders for various reasons, among them trade and search of water and pasture, the absence of regional policies and strategies has not facilitated the conservation and the protection of endangered breeds especially where commensurate conservation measures (both in situ and ex-situ) are regarded to be more efficient and cost effective at regional level.
Where policies and strategies have been initiated, this has been constrained by a lack of information and consensus on the current status and trends of AnGR, the harmonisation of the methodology for their characterization and inventory, making it very difficult, if not impossible to inform policy makers.
The basis for the sustainable conservation and utilization of AnGR mainly lies in the existence of comprehensive legal and regulatory frameworks in each country and at regional level to govern breed utilisation, including breed improvement and exchange of genetic materials and, at the same time, assure and define the role and responsibility of each stakeholder.
Given AU-IBAR's strategic choices, its institutional position and links and its experience of working with national authorities and RECs, the institution chose to take up the important task of assisting the AU Member States with the design of such frameworks and policies as a high priority. The main outcome of this intervention will be increased capacity in countries for defining policy, legal and regulatory frameworks and strategies, in order to convince national decision makers, private sector and other partners on mobilising the necessary human and financial resources to maintain and further enhance AnGR, as well as increased capacities in RECs for harmonizing policy frameworks at regional level. In this regard the CAADP round table process within the countries will be instrumental for the mobilisation of resources.
In terms of data base development, the project will build on the work done by ILRI when developing the DAGRIS which will be integrated in the ARIS database as its AnGR component. Consultations with FAO will also be initiated for the interoperability of this database with the FAO DAD-IS.
In terms of institutional framework, the project will strengthen the national and regional focal points for AnGR set up under the FAO, Institutional Framework for the Management of AnGR.