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: A flock of Béni Guil sheep

IN ACTION

Livestock week for the Near East and North Africa region raised visibility of local breeds

19-23 November, IAV Hassan II, Rabat, Morocco.

The Near East and North Africa (NENA) region includes the centres of domestication of several major livestock species such as cattle, sheep and goats, and thus its breeds are more likely than others to have valuable and unique genetic diversity. However, the region’s climate and production environments vary widely and include numerous harsh environments that combine high temperatures, arid conditions and repeated droughts. These conditions, along with the intensification of production systems, are a threat to locally adapted breeds. The recent events that occurred in some countries of the region, commonly referred to as the Arab Spring, and the resulting armed conflicts, might have aggravated this threat. These factors raise several questions: What is the state of animal genetic resources (AnGR) in the NENA Region? What roles do locally adapted breeds play in livestock production, food security and poverty alleviation in these countries? The latter question raises others about the potential of these breeds and about existing strategies for their valorisation and improving their access to markets.


The first regional workshop, Characterization and value addition to local breeds and their products in the Near East and North Africa region, held in Rabat (19–21 November 2012), shed some light on these questions and allowed participants to share experiences from ongoing projects on the characterization of AnGR and their production systems, and on their valorisation and access to markets. The workshop noted that significant progress has been achieved in value addition to local breeds and labeling of products in North African local breeds – an experience worth to be disseminated to other sub-regions. However, not all breeds are sufficiently characterized and better knowledge of unique features of these breeds, their products, socio-cultural, religious use, and production systems would help their valorisation and market access.


Animal identification, recording and traceability (AIRT) are used for valorisation and securing access to markets, e.g. for higher-quality and geographically identifiable products, and thus have a direct impact on the livelihoods of small-scale and poor livestock keepers. AIRT serve multiple other purposes in a country’s livestock sector. Traceability plays an important role in protecting public and animal health. It forms the basis for animal food safety and quality control and helps disease prevention and control. Recording includes performance recording, which forms the basis for production improvement, both through better farm management and through breeding. AIRT is therefore considered a powerful tool for livestock development, particularly in developing countries, and for addressing global demands for food security and poverty alleviation.


Therefore, the second regional workshop, “Animal identification and traceability : tools for the enhancement and utilization of genetic resources, the fight against animal diseases and food security”, held in Rabat (22–23 November 2012), strengthened the capacity of senior staff of veterinary and animal production services and of professional organizations in AIRT, especially in institutional and regulatory aspects and in technical aspects of system design and the management of activities and data. The workshop also helped to share experiences and promote harmonization of AIRT systems in the countries of the region. It recognized that the multipurpose and integrated approach to AIRT depends on the inclusion of all relevant stakeholders, and emphasized the importance of public–private partnerships in implementing such systems.


The workshops were organized by several FAO units – the Animal Genetic Resources Branch (AGAG) at headquarters, the Regional Office for the Near East (RNE), sub-regional offices for North Africa and the Gulf Cooperation Council States and Yemen (SNE and SNG), and the FAO Representation in Morocco – in collaboration with the Directorate of Production Chain development (DDFP) and the National Office for Food Safety (ONSSA) of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries of Morocco, the National Association for Sheep and Goat Breeders (ANOC) and the Hassan II Veterinary and Agronomic Institute (IAV Hassan II), and in partnership with International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), the Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Zaragoza (IAMZ), the project of the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) GALIMED and the European project ARIMNET, the Maghreb Union of Sheep and Goat Associations (UMAOC) and the Maghreb Union of Cattle Breeders’ Associations (UMAEB). The workshops were thus a good example of FAO’s work in promoting public–private partnerships.