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Community-based livestock breeding

The Ethiopian government has adopted ICARDA’s community-based livestock breeding strategy to boost smallholder productivity

“Modern” livestock breeding methods are often unsuitable for poor households with small flocks of sheep and goats. ICARDA and its partners have developed a more sustainable alternative: community-based breeding programs focusing on indigenous breeds, and suited to smallholder conditions.

Community-based breeding programs have proved highly successful in Bolivia, Ethiopia, Mexico and Peru. The same approach can be used in other countries, to improve the incomes and livelihoods of poor communities in remote areas.

Community-based breeding increases the productivity and profitability of indigenous breeds without undermining their resilience and genetic integrity, and without expensive (and potentially diversity-reducing) interventions.

Key elements of this approach:

  • Farmer training to improve selection methods – for example, retaining especially fast-growing ram lambs for breeding, rather than selling them young.
  • Pool the community flock, creating a large gene pool from which breeding rams can be selected.
  • Farmer-scientist interactions to evaluate different breeding options, and thus facilitating informed decisions on flock management.
  • Set up a recording system to monitor the performance of individual animals, leading to continuous genetic improvement.
  • In Ethiopia, the approach has been used successfully for four years by more than 500 households in remote communities. Flock genetic quality, animal health and productivity, and income from lamb sales have improved substantially.

ICARDA’s approach to community-based breeding was recently acknowledged by the Ethiopian government when officials identified it as a key component of the country’s national livestock plan.