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Workshop helps to strengthen the regional capacities for the sustainable use of animal genetic resources in East Africa

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© 2014 AU-IBAR. Group photo of all the participants Workshop "Strengthening institutional capacity for the management of animal genetic resources in Eastern Africa".© 2014 AU-IBAR. Group photo of all the participants Workshop "Strengthening institutional capacity for the management of animal genetic resources in Eastern Africa".Kampala, Uganda (March 2014) – The African Union – Inter African Bureau of Animal resources (AU-IBAR) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) jointly organized a three-day workshop focusing on strengthening institutional capacity for the management of animal genetic resources in Eastern Africa.

Attended by 35 experts and representatives from ten countries, Sub-Regional Organizations, Regional Economic Communities and civil society organizations, the workshop aimed at launching the process of establishing a Sub-Regional Focal Point for Animal Genetic Resources in Eastern Africa as part of the implementation of the Global Plan of Action for Animal Genetic Resources, and strengthening collaboration among institutions dealing with animal genetic resources issues in the region.

At the end of three days deliberations, participants agreed on key priorities areas for the development of animal genetic resources in East Africa and the institutional and organizational structure of the Sub-Regional Focal Point with a secretariat to be hosted by ASARECA, the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa. They elected an interim steering committee and formulated a road map for the establishment of the Sub-Regional Focal Point, which will be a mechanism to foster coordination and collaboration among various institutions in the region dealing with animal genetic resources.

The workshop was organized in the framework of the implementation of the FAO Technical Cooperation Project "Assistance for Regional Initiative on Animal Genetic Resources in Africa" and the AU-IBAR Project "Strengthening the Capacity of African Countries to Conservation and Sustainable Utilization of African Animal Genetic Resources" funded by the EU.

"Livestock provide increased economic stability for farmers and households, acting as a cash buffer and a capital reserve. At national level, livestock production constitutes a very important component of the economy and contributes up to 65% to agricultural gross domestic product in some countries. Indigenous animal genetic resources are often more resistant to local diseases, more heat tolerant and better able to efficiently utilize poor-quality feed. This is recognized in the strategy of the AU-IBAR, which sets the sustainable use of animal genetic resources as a priority to mainstream livestock in the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development program" said Dr Simplice Nouala of AU-IBAR.

Great Opportunity

Neighbouring countries usually have AnGR in common and often share similar climatic, cultural and socio-economic environments, resulting in mutual expertise and demand for knowledge on the optimal management of these AnGR. Therefore the Global Plan of Action highlights the important roles of Regional Focal Points and regional networks in building collaborative partnerships, coordinating regional efforts in animal genetic resources management, facilitating the exchange of information and promoting technical cooperation, training and research.

Dr Alhaji Jallow, the FAO Representative in Uganda, said in his opening remarks "The Global Plan of Action for Animal Genetic Resources emphasizes the importance of sustainable use of animal genetic resources in the improvement of livestock production and in meeting future challenges."

In his opening remarks, Dr George Ococh from the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries of Uganda, highlighted the contribution of the livestock sector in Uganda. He mentioned that animal genetics and breeding are very important given the continuously increasing human population growth rate.

The workshop began with country reports on ongoing activities to better manage animal genetic resources and priorities and plans for the future. Based on this, the participants identified the most important priorities for action on the sub-regional level. There was a consensus emerging among all participants with the recognition that all of them face similar challenges and opportunities with regard to animal genetic resources management. The workshop succeeded in discussing and creating complementarities and synergies that will allow more collaboration and coordination over a sustained period among stakeholders involved in the management of animal genetic resources in East Africa.

"It was a great opportunity to meet with fellow experts and exchange on the status of implementation of the Global Plan of Action in Eastern Africa, the status of implementation of AU-IBAR activities on animal genetic resources in East Africa, the roles and responsibilities of National, Regional and Global Focal Points for the Management of animal genetic resources and some regional priorities" said Dr Cheikh Ly from the Regional Office of FAO.

The way forward

The participants discussed how a Sub-Regional Focal Point (SRFP) may facilitate collaboration to address identified priorities and developed a proposed structure for the SRFP. ASARECA, the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa, was nominated to host the SRFP. The participants then appointed National Coordinators for the Management of Animal Genetic Resources from four countries to constitute an interim steering committee to guide the process. Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda and Rwanda were selected, to ensure a balance of countries from the Intergovernmental Authority on Development for East Africa and the East Africa Community. A road map for development of the SRFP was then drawn up, with formal establishment foreseen in late 2014. In addition to ASARECA and member countries, the SRFP is foreseen to comprise representatives from FAO, AU-IBAR, the Regional Economic Communities, the International Livestock Research Institute and civil society organizations.

"This workshop provided an important forum to discuss mechanisms to foster coordination, coherence and collaboration amongst institutions involved in animal genetic resources management in Africa. It also demonstrated the importance of regional networking to build collaborative partnerships, to coordinate regional management efforts in animal genetic resources, to further develop information sharing, and for technical cooperation, training and research. It finally provided an opportunity to discuss the role of different regional institutions in the implementation of the Global Plan of Action" said Dr Irene Hoffmann, the Leader of FAO's Global Animal Genetic Resources Programme.

Field visit to the Stock Farm in Njeru

The workshop ended with a field visit to the Stock Farm in Njeru that is managed by the Ugandan National Genetic Resource Centre and Databank. The farm manager provided the delegation with information about the most recent developments with respect to introduced improved dairy genetics. The delegation was impressed by the system of dairy farming in Uganda.