The baseline characterization and inventory of AnGR are fundamental for breed improvement and conservation programmes, and for contingency planning to protect valuable resources at risk. However, according to The State of the World's Animal Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (SoW), population size is missing for over two-thirds of African breed populations. The gaps in data and information on the breeds and their production systems are obstacles to the effective sharing of data and information within and between countries, which hinders the joint development of trans-boundary breeds.
The activities in this result area will mainly aim at taking stock of the existing situation and generate knowledge and evidences that will be used for policy dialogue and guidance, advocacy and awareness raising, under the other three result areas. Under this result the following activities are envisaged:
Activity 1. Establish the state of AnGR in Africa to identify threatened ruminant breeds and breeds at risk of extinction
Under this activity, a comprehensive and systematic inventory of existing AnGR will be conducted so as to establish the status on AnGR.
This will build on existing documentation and bibliography, which has been produced in abundance on this subject, but mainly during the two decades following independences, and therefore need updating.
At country levels, national consultants will produce national inventories detailing animal populations per species and breeds, including population trends. A particular focus will be given to endangered breeds, for which a detailed census will be performed when possible (or estimates when census is not feasible). The protocol, guidelines and template developed in activity 1 of the result 4 will be used for this exercise. Data collected at national level will be analyse at regional level so as to identify national and transboundary breeds at risk.
Activity 2. An inventory and assessment of existing policies and regulations on the use of animal genetic resources including genetic improvement of livestock in Africa
In parallel to the inventory conducted under activity 1 above, a similar exercise will be conducted at countries' level, as well as at regional level, to identify existing policy, strategy or regulatory frameworks related to management of animal genetic resources.
Activity 3. Assessment of the genetic impact of livestock production systems (i.e. intensification systems with utilization of. exotic breeds), and movements of animal populations (linked to transhumance and commercialisation) on local/indigenous AnGR resource base
The indigenous genetic resource base and diversity has been deeply affected in recent decades by the extensive use of exotic breeds which has often been considered as the main, most effective and fastest way of intensifying livestock production systems. Initially restricted to high potential areas like peri-urban zones and highlands, this progressive gene substitution phenomenon eventually spread out to rural areas, and also affected agro-pastoral and pastoral systems, where the genetic characteristics of local animal populations have been modified. In some circumstances, this has been encouraged by governments and development agencies, but it most cases, it has happened in an uncontrolled and unplanned manner.
Movements of animal populations, linked to transhumance and/or commercialisation, have also influenced the genetic characteristics of indigenous populations. This phenomenon is not new and has been taking place for centuries through transhumance. However, with the recent urbanization and emergence of middle classes in urban areas, flows of animals from pastoral areas to urban areas have increased. In West and Central Africa for instance, large populations of zebus raised in the Sahel constantly move to the savannah, forest and coastal areas, for transhumance or marketing purposes. Here they are brought into contact with indigenous populations, which are mainly of taurine origin and have trypanotolerance characters, and indiscriminate crossbreeding occurs.
The consequences of these phenomena on the genetic resource base, and on the characteristic and performance of local animal populations are still largely unknown. It may have resulted in increases in productive capacities of animal populations. However, it may also be assumed that it negatively impacted on some of the essential adaptive characteristics of these populations, such as resistance to diseases, resilience to drought, mobility.
The first phase of the assessment will consist of the establishment of a typology of crossbreeding programmes/phenomena in the area. The typology will in particular distinguish the implementation modalities of the programme (regulated, planned, erratic, government supported, private sector based, linked to movements, etc...) and its objective (creation of synthetic breed, breed absorption and substitution, improvement of local breed, etc...).
For each type identified, one or two case studies will be conducted to assess the impact of these programmes on genetic diversity, productivity of the animal population, sustainability of the production system, and the short and long-term socio economic benefits for the livestock owners and the economy.
Activity 4. Assessment of local breeds selection and breeding programs impact on animal genetic diversity and socio-economic status in Africa
A similar exercise to the one described under activity 3 above will be undertaken for selection and breeding programmes of local breeds on the continent. The exercise will also be conducted in two phases: typology of breeding programmes, and case studies.
The outputs of activities 3 and 4 will then be put in parallel to compare the respective benefits of the two options, and provide evidence and elements to stimulate debate for policy dialogue.