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Improving the Livelihoods of Poor Livestock-keepers through Community-Based Management of Indigenous Farm Animal Genetic Resources in Africa

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Improving the Livelihoods of Poor Livestock-keepers through Community-Based Management of Indigenous Farm Animal Genetic Resources in Africa

Workneh Ayalew 1[1], Adam G. Drucker1, Clemens B. A. Wollny2, Olorounto D. Koudande3, Faustin Vidogbena3, Hippolyte Dossa2,3, Lemma Gizachew4, Ulfina Galmessa4, Girma Tesfahun2, Brigitte Kaufmann5 and Guyo Haro6, Harun Warui5

1International Livestock Research Institute, P O Box 5689, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

2Georg-August-University Göttingen, Germany;

3Institut National des Recherches Agricoles du Benin, Cotonou, Benin;

4Oromia Agricultural Research Institute, Adama, Ethiopia;

5University of Hohenheim, Germany; 6Indigenous Vegetation Project (GEF/GTZ), Marsabit, Kenya [1] Corresponding author ([email protected]).


Existing livestock biodiversity, in the form of numerous indigenous breeds, is the outcome of rural communities managing livestock in many different habitats to meet their breeding goals, production system requirements and environmental constraints. The loss of genetic diversity reduces opportunities to improve food security. Despite an accelerating rate of livestock diversity extinction, little has been done in terms of systematic genetic improvement and conservation. Community-based management (CBM) of existing animal genetic diversity in developing countries can support the improvement of the livelihoods of poor livestock keepers while also ensuring the conservation of the genetic resources. ILRI, in collaboration with partner national research institutions in Benin, Ethiopia and Kenya as well as the Universities of Goettingen and Hohenheim in Germany, has been implementing this 3-year research project since September 2004 to overcome past failures in the genetic improvement of animal genetic resources (AnGR) by developing a framework to fully engage communities in the management of these resources using in-situ approaches to conservation and sustainable use of farm animal biodiversity, consistent with the Convention on Biological Diversity.


The empowerment of these local communities, through an improvement of their analytical, technical, managerial and organisational skills to sustainably manage their animal genetic resources.


  • Project location
  • Sites with contrasting livestock production systems in:
  • Benin: on indigenous goats and chicken with smallholder mixed crop-livestock farmers in warm and humid climatic zones. Two sites: Toffo and Dassa. Breeds: Djallonke and Sahelian goats.
  • Ethiopia: on indigenous cattle in a sedentary highland crop-livestock production system. Three communities: Seyo-Gambella, Dano-Shenen and Gida-Abu. Breed: Horro.
  • Kenya: with the Gabra pastoral communities on indigenous sheep and goats. Two sites: Farakoren (Rendille/Arial) and Malabot (Gabra). Breed: East African sheep and East African Shorthorn and Somali goats.
  • Expected outputs
  • A framework for community-based management (CBM) of AnGR developed and tested;
  • Market opportunities for indigenous livestock quantified;
  • Producer and consumer preferences for alternative livestock genotypes quantified;
  • Policy constraints to conservation and sustainable use of indigenous livestock identified, and policy-makers sensitized to community needs, and
  • National capacities for conservation and sustainable use of AnGR strengthened.
  • Strategy
  • This interdisciplinary project combines novel approaches to implement CBM:
  • participatory documentation of livestock breeds and indigenous knowledge to mobilize community resources;
  • community-based action research to develop and test preferred improvement interventions towards enhanced contribution of livestock to support livelihoods (characterization of AnGR in the systems context), and
  • participatory livelihood contribution assessments for evaluating the progress and impact of livestock development interventions.
  • Lessons learned so far
  • Participatoryresearch methods:
    • Allow better understanding of farmers’ perspectives
    • Foster active participation of farmers from all socio-economic categories
  • 2. Communities recognize different breed types and ecotypes of their livestock, which may be distinct from official breed classifications.
  • 3. Farmers’ perceptions of production constraints may need empirical verification, yet they provide sound basis for participatory on-farm research.
  • 4. Within the framework of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), preparatory activities can be undertaken to arrange for “Prior informed Consent” agreement with livestock-keeper communities as well as participating institutions with respect to livestock genetic resources.

Key activities

1. Identification of project site, communities, priority species and breeds through PRA surveys

2. Community-based action research leading to the development and establishment of community-based management (CBM) framework

3. Enhance controlled mating of the experimental herds and flocks

4. Analysis of the economic, market and policy factors influencing the conservation and sustainable use of AnGR.

5. Capacity building and dissemination at various levels, and

6. Monitoring and assessment of progress


The CBM framework offers promise and needs to be fairly and critically assessed. The lessons learned under these diverse production environments will ensure its broad applicability in these and similar developing countries.