Livestock improvement delivers for dryland communities

ICARDA's community-based breeding programs will be included in a World Bank-funded national livestock plan

Livestock are a mainstay of dryland communities, providing much-needed income and a crucial source of food and nutrition. ICARDA works alongside communities to develop practical, cost-effective strategies to raise livestock productivity and profitability, helping households to get the most from these vital resources.

In 2016, the Center’s Sub-Saharan Regional Program promoted community-based sheep and goat breeding programs, field solutions for cost-effective oestrus synchronization and artificial insemination, and food-feed crop varieties.

Community-based breeding programs (CBBPs) are adapted to the resource-constraints of smallholder farmers and designed to raise the productivity of indigenous breeds without undermining their adaptation to harsh environments. This unique approach involves: farmer participation to organize selection schemes; pooling individual flocks to create larger community gene pools; improving farmer-scientist interactions to inform better decision-making; and establishing recording systems to monitor and assess performance and bring continuous genetic improvement.

CBBPs were acknowledged by the Ethiopian government in 2015 when the Ethiopia Livestock Master Plan was developed and CBBPs were identified as one of the strategies for small ruminant genetic improvement. Ethiopian regional government authorities in Southern Nations and Amhara are also investing money in the approach’s regional expansion. The new World Bank-funded national livestock program that will start in January 2018 will implement CBBPs for small ruminants.

There have also been improvements in field solutions for synchronization and artificial insemination in sheep. The tested synchronization protocol, which involved two injections of prostaglandin analogue eleven days apart, reduced costs from an estimated USD 8.5 to a mere USD 1.3 per treatment.

Optimal feed options were also explored to enhance animal nutrition and health. In Ethiopia, where crop residue comprises an estimated 70-100% of feed resources in mixed crop-livestock farming systems, ICARDA identified genotypes that combine superior grain yield and straw traits in lentil, chickpea, field pea and faba bean.