Mali’s first-ever Community-Based Breeding Program is launched

Published Date
June 11, 2024
Published by
ICARDA Communication Team
CBBP in Mali
CBBP in Mali

The launch in Mali in 2023 of the country’s first-ever community-based breeding scheme for goats demonstrates that when small-scale livestock keepers collaborate, they can improve the genetic potential of their goats and enhance their livelihoods.

By including key public, private, and professional stakeholders in the design of the program, ICARDA and ILRI ensure it is tailored to the Malian context and farmers’ objectives and capacities.

Mali’s ruminant army


Rooted in a rich agropastoral tradition, Mali’s small ruminant farming plays a crucial socio-economic role. With over 21 million heads of sheep and more than 29 million heads of goats, the country boasts the largest herd of small ruminants in the West African Economic and Monetary Union. It ranks second in the Economic Community of West African States. The animals are raised for various purposes, including fattening for sale, exporting live animals, milk production, consumption during social events, and other market outlets. As a result, the sector significantly contributes to Mali’s economic growth, rural sector production and employment, and export earnings. The sector relies on a wide diversity of small ruminant breeds and populations selectively bred and raised for specific features and agroecological niches. Among them are Short-Hair Maure, Long-Hair Maure, Touareg, Toronke, Bali-Bali, Djallonké, Macina, etc. Additionally, Mali is home to various goat breeds like Peulh, Guéra, Boureissa, Djallonké, etc.

Yet despite their economic and social importance, small ruminants do not receive the necessary research and political attention for sustainable development towards better livelihoods within the subsector, according to Mamadou D. Coulibaly, a leading breeder and livestock genetic improvement expert based in Mali. 

In a recent report, Dr. Coulibaly underlines multiple constraints limiting small ruminants' production, such as prevalent diseases, some of which are abortive or zoonotic. Other challenges include feed and feeding difficulties, unsuitable habitats, high mobility of sheep flocks, and the absence (or limited scope) of national programs for the genetic improvement of local sheep and goat breeds. "Most goat keepers aspire to have better access to financial capital, supplementary feeds, and capacity reinforcement," says Dr. Coulibaly. "Unfortunately, these constraints are barriers to the sustainable development and profitability of small ruminant breeding in Mali. Research and development activities must prioritize addressing these issues."

Community-Based Breeding Programs - Basic training of the enumerators

Basic training of the enumerators

Community-Based Breeding Program (CBBP) is a cost-effective, decentralized, and a participatory approach to enhancing the genetic performance and productivity of small ruminants in low-income communities. Unlike centralized breeding schemes, CBBP is co-developed and implemented by farmer communities, whose active involvement increases the chances of success. Together with the experts, they define clear breeding objectives, meticulously collect performance and pedigree data, evaluate genetic benefits, and select ‘star’ bucks within the community flock to raise flock quality.

To facilitate the delivery of these improved genetics, three reproductive technologies need to be developed with national partners: sires’ certification, low-cost and low-infrastructure artificial insemination, and pregnancy diagnosis to reduce reproductive losses.

ICARDA’s extensive experience in Ethiopia, where CBBPs have been successfully rolled out since 2009, suggests that breeding programs are more efficient when participating farmers simultaneously receive a holistic package of technologies that contribute to improved animal health and feeding practices.

The first-ever CBBP in Mali: community consultation and co-design

community consultation and co-design

ICARDA and ILRI collaborated with national agricultural research systems, local partners, and farming community representatives to unite all stakeholders. Together, they selected the Ségou region in south-central Mali as the location for the country’s first goat-based CBBP. A workshop was then convened in September 2023, where the program was introduced to all stakeholders, who defined their breeding objectives and selection traits. After deciding on in which communes the CBBP would be rolled out, the participants then opted for a dual breeding objective, prioritizing milk and meat production. They also identified key selection traits, ranking fertility, milk yield, and growth rate as the top three traits. Furthermore, a provisional institutional arrangement involving various international and national stakeholders was presented to participants. Four villages (Siguidolo Were, Nougoula, Bananido, and Nèrèkoro) of the Konobougou commune in Segou were identified for implementation in the program.

ICARDA and ILRI have since launched the goat CBBP in Siguidolo Were and Nougoula in December 2023. More than 1,300 goats were identified, and enumerators from the communities, along with national experts, were trained and equipped to collect data.

Soon, livestock breeders should be able to reap the benefits of the first-ever CBBP in Mali, marking a promising development for Mali’s agropastoral future.

  • CGIAR team: Ons Tebourbi, Tesfaye Getachew, Michel Dione, Ahmadou Sow, Mourad Rekik, Karen Marshall, Aynalem Haile, and Barbara Rischkowsky

  • Institut d’Economie Rurale team in Mali: Idrissa Sacko, Madou Dao,and  Coulibaly Doubangolo

 This work was made possible through the CGIAR Initiative on Sustainable Animal Productivity for Livelihoods, Nutrition and Gender Inclusion (SAPLING)