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Community-Based Management of Animal Genetic Resources
with Special Reference to Pastoralists

Ilse Köhler-Rollefson
League for Pastoral Peoples, Pragelatostr. 20, 64372
Ober-Ramstadt, Germany


This paper places AnGR management into an overall social and historical context. After summarizing the reasons for the current revival of interest in indigenous breeds, the different processes and social contexts that have led to the development of domestic animal diversity are elaborated upon. Several breed definitions are evaluated with respect to their appropriateness in the context of developing countries. An overview of traditional practices for managing AnGR among pastoral communities is presented and the significance of social and ritual practices for breed conservation is emphasized. The reasons for maintaining local genetic resources are enumerated, including the fact that they represent the best bet for the exploitation of marginal environments and display very site-specific adaptations. Possible incentives for communities to maintain their breeds are discussed, as well as experiences with the marketing of speciality products from local breeds. This is followed by suggested practical steps for implementing a community-based conservation project. The concept of "pastoralists’ rights" is discussed and attention is given to the need for legal safeguards against biopiracy. Recommendations include the adoption of a livelihoods approach towards conservation, the direct involvement of communities in all projects that concern them, support to intermediary non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the control of animal industries, and the establishment of a policy forum on AnGR and intellectual property questions.


Local or indigenous livestock breeds play an important, even crucial role for sustainable rural livelihoods and the utilization of marginal ecological areas. Besides providing a wide variety of products, they yield important non-monetary benefits by enabling poor and landless people to access and utilize communally owned grazing areas, by producing dung that is vital to sustain intensive crop cultivation, by being a component of indigenous rituals and social exchange systems, and by representing a mobile bank account that can be cashed in at times of need. They thus form an essential component of sustainable rural livelihoods.

For many decades these indigenous animal genetic resources were perceived as unproductive and inherently inferior to high-performance or improved breeds and, as a consequence, they were subjected to cross-breeding or even replacement with exotic breeds. As a result of this and various other factors, the number of indigenous livestock breeds has declined rapidly during the twentieth century. About one-third of the more than 7 000 livestock breeds (including poultry) registered in the FAO global database are regarded as threatened by extinction (Scherf, 2000).

The revival of interest in these local animal genetic resources can be attributed to the following factors:

1. There is a growing number of comparative studies indicating that, within the context of their respective production systems, local breeds may be able to compete with improved breeds, even with regard to productivity (Intercooperation, 2000; Kebede, 2000).

2. Local breeds harbour genes for resistance against diseases, which are needed for maintaining the viability of animal production systems in northern countries.

3. With the wild ancestors of most domesticated animal species being extinct, genetic diversity within domesticated species - necessary for providing opportunity for selection and adaptation to change - is vested mostly with traditional breeds.

4. In the context of "sustainable livelihood" approaches to development, local livestock is an important contributor to rural welfare and poverty alleviation (Anderson, 2000).

The aim of this report is to elaborate on the role of traditional pastoral and farming communities in the management of domestic animal diversity and to suggest possible avenues for the conservation of animal genetic resources by means of sustainable use in community contexts.

Origin of domestic animal diversity and of livestock breeds

The approximately 7 000 officially catalogued livestock breeds have been developed out of less than 20 wild species within a span of 10 000 years, beginning with the first domestication of sheep and goats at around 8 000 years BC in the Near East. This enormous diversification has been driven by the following processes.

1. The introduction of domesticated species into new habitats: by taking animals into new environments and ecological niches, humans subjected animals to selection for adaptability to new sets of ecological factors and created new "ecotypes".

2. In addition, human societies manipulated their animals genetically by subjecting them to different sociocultural breeding regimes and economic utilization patterns, practising selection depending on their cultural preferences and needs.

3. Furthermore, some human societies and cultures tended to monopolize their animals. Animals were not exchanged at random - they changed ownership only within the community. Often animal-exchange networks corresponded to an endogamous human group or ethnic group, so that individual breeds evolved in tandem with each ethnic group.

What is a breed?

"Especially in Africa, livestock breeds ... are known by the same name in different places, but often look quite different from one place to another. Conversely, there are breeds that look alike but have different names in different places" (ILRI, 1996).

The term "breed" is escaping a clear definition. Commonly, it is defined as a "phenotypically distinct group of animals within a species", or "animals that, through selection and breeding, have come to resemble one another and pass these traits uniformly to their offspring" (Breeds of Livestock - Oklahoma State University, see Web site). However, the criterion of "looking alike" can be problematic, as the above quotation shows.

Some definitions therefore focus on the breeders’ perception. "A breed is a group of domestic animals, termed such by common consent of the breeders ... a term which arose among breeders of livestock, created, one might say, for their own use, and no one is warranted in assigning to this word a scientific definition and in calling the breeders wrong when they deviate from the formulated definition. It is their word and the breeders’ common usage is what we must accept as the correct definition" (Jay Lush, The Genetics of Populations, quoted on the Oklahoma State University Web site).

A definition that applies a combination of social and ecological criteria is the following: "A domestic animal population may be regarded as a breed, if the animals fulfil the criteria of (i) being subjected to a common utilization pattern, (ii) sharing a common habitat/distribution area, (iii) representing largely a closed gene pool, and (iv) being regarded as distinct by their breeders" (Köhler-Rollefson, 1997).

Traditional systems for managing animal genetic resources

"Each form of genetic management of an animal population corresponds to a specific organizational pattern of livestock breeders" (Casabianca and Vallerand, 1994).

Different sociocultural regimes and structures manage animal genetic resources differently and result in different types of breeds. The following three types of traditional socio-economic contexts for farm-animal breeding can be distinguished:

- Farmers/smallholders. They keep animals integrated with crop cultivation. For farmers/smallholders, livestock is necessary to provide draught power and dung as fertilizer. It also represents a means of converting or adding value to agricultural by-products. Because for farmers livestock is secondary for crop cultivation, and they often keep only small numbers of animals, they have not always developed elaborate structures and institutions for systematic breeding and for safeguarding their genetic resources. This may result in breeds that are in the real sense "ecotypes", shaped by local ecologies rather than purposeful human genetic manipulation, and that are not always very distinct.

- Central authorities. States, kingdoms and fiefdoms often require secure access to high-quality domestic animals, usually for warfare. Because they are able to invest sufficient resources in structures for breed improvement, performance recording and selection, superior and well-defined breeds can result. Examples include most of the German horse breeds (e.g. Trakehner), which were developed by kings and other rulers for the purpose of warfare, the Amrit Mahal cattle (Amrit Mahal means department of milk) established by the rulers of Mysore State (India), and some of the Indian camel breeds developed by maharajas for warfare (e.g. the Bikaneri and Alwar camel breeds).

- Pastoralists. As people "who keep animals on natural graze and for whom animal breeding is economically and culturally dominant", pastoralists usually have a highly complex indigenous knowledge system in regard to animal breeding. They inhabit marginal areas characterized by low and unreliable rainfall or situated at high altitudes. The elaborate breeding strategies of pastoralists result in animals that are not only able to survive and reproduce in hostile environments, but are also fairly productive under the given constraints. Because they largely present closed gene pools, these animals can be very distinct and their distribution range corresponds with that of ethnic groups.

Pastoral breeds are often viewed as genetically superior by farmers (George, 1985). Because pastoralists keep animals under conditions very close to those obtaining in the wild and without much protection against the elements and climatic extremes, their breeds may carry fitness traits of potential interest for maintaining the vitality of high-performance breeds.

Indigenous animal genetic resource management by pastoral communities

The geographical distribution of breeds provides evidence that pastoralism is associated with a relatively high degree of animal genetic diversity. Peripheral and remote areas - the typical habitat of pastoralists - have been noted to have disproportionately large numbers of breeds. "In Asia and in Africa, semi-arid or arid countries such as Mongolia, Yemen, Oman, and those of the Sahel, Botswana and Namibia have the greatest proportional diversity of breeds. In China and India, border states and provinces which have harsh terrain have the greatest breeds-to-people ratios" (Hall and Ruane, 1993).

Some of the aspects of indigenous knowledge responsible for the distinctness of pastoral breeds include:

- Communal ownership resulting in closed gene pools. Many pastoral communities have strict rules against the sale of animals, especially female stock, outside the community. Livestock changes ownership only within the community or social network, on occasions such as marriage, childbirth, circumcision or other lifecycle stages. While there is an obligation to lend animals to poor members of the community over periods that may span generations, individuals do not have the right to sell their breeding stock to outsiders. For pastoralists, animals are the equivalent of land to cultivators: capital or heritage that is passed on from one generation to the next. This attitude results in relatively closed gene pools and is why pastoral breeds are often very distinct.

- Institutions for managing genetic composition of breeds. In Zambia, cattle keepers in the Western Province are perceived by outsiders as not engaging in any purposeful measures for improving their stock. Yet, sociological research has revealed that traditional farmers actually manipulate the genetic composition in a variety of ways. Animals are selected for size, strength, colour, shape of the horns, parentage and character; castration is delayed until it becomes obvious whether the bull possesses the desired characteristics. Farmers practise mafisa - giving female animals on long-term loans to friends who may reap the benefits during the caretaking arrangement. Placing a female in another herd prevents inbreeding and is done in the expectation that it will be served by better bulls (Beerling, 1986).

- Pedigree-keeping. One aspect of indigenous animal genetic resource management that reflects parallels with herd-book societies is mental record-keeping of animals’ pedigrees. In general, pastoralists attach great importance to the ancestry of their animals and memorize it in great detail. The practices of camel pastoralists have been meticulously documented (Köhler-Rollefson, 1995). The Maasai conceive their cattle herds as being composed of "houses" or matrilineages; all animals descended from one particular cow are grouped together and given the same name (Galaty, 1989). Many pastoralists also see parallels between their own ancestry and that of their herds.

- Adaptation to hostile environments. Pastoralists actively pursue adaptation of animals to hostile environments. In Nigeria, "ruminant livestock is kept by both pastoralists and village producers, but pastoralists play a major role in both developing and spreading breeds. Being mobile producers, they bring new breeding stock to the markets for selling and must respond more rapidly to changing environmental conditions to remain viable. Fulbe pastoralists, who are constantly exploring new ecological zones and management strategies, also have their own breeding goals. One of the clearest of these is the gradual introduction of preferred breeds into areas of abundant vegetation previously considered unsafe. This is usually undertaken by programmes of cross-breeding and intensive management of high-risk individuals. The result has been the continued survival of zebu herds in high-humidity zones" (Blench, 1999a).

Loss of breed diversity

The process of breed diversification, which was earlier sustained by the fact that domesticated animals were subjected to diverse cultural regimes in an infinite variety of environments, is now in reversal, entailing a loss of domestic animal diversity that is estimated at two breeds per week by FAO. The factors driving this process of breed homogenization can be summarized as:

- Pressure to adopt improved breeds and standardized production and breeding systems. Governments and extension personnel with formal training in animal science promote the adoption of high-performance breeds and management of animals according to scientific principles and in intensive production systems. Because breeds are rated only from the perspective of their performance and their productivity with regard to one particular product (usually meat and milk) in the prevailing animal production paradigm, there is little appreciation of the adaptability traits of indigenous breeds.

- Loss of traditional livelihoods and cultural diversity. Many indigenous communities are forced to abandon their traditional patterns of livestock keeping because of a lack of (grazing) resources resulting from the encroachment of agriculture, the establishment of wildlife reserves, or population pressure. Some of the most valuable and interesting animal genetic resources (with regard to fitness and behavioural traits) are kept by traditional communities. The young people from these ethnic groups often are no longer attracted to herding and prefer to wander into the cities to seek employment. In the Raika caste, which represents the largest pastoral community in western India, young women now start to refuse to marry men who are involved in herding. Adoption of western values and abandonment of traditional rituals, customs and livelihoods inevitably also results in the loss of distinct breeds.

Examples of ritual and social practices contributing to conservation

The trypanotolerant Muturu cattle breed was once widely distributed across Africa’s Sahelian zone, but was replaced by Zebu cattle. Resistant to ticks and environmental stress and able to subsist on scant vegetation, Muturu cattle were kept mostly for ritual purposes by chiefs and elders, and were used in the ceremonial cycle rather than sold on the market (Blench, 1999a). The breed has survived because these animals are still sacred for many communities and their milk is widely used for medicinal purposes (Adebambo, 1994).

In southern India, an important incentive for preserving the local Malaimadu cattle - kept mostly for dung production and to increase the fertility of improved breeds - is the ritual custom of jallicuttu (bull running), practised during Pongal, the three-day harvest festival. Businessmen take pride in spending huge sums of money for the purchase of fierce bulls.

Reasons for maintaining local genetic resources

Best bet for exploiting marginal environments

Local livestock remains the best option for exploiting or utilizing the marginal environments - such as deserts, steppes, mountains - which account for two-thirds of the world’s land surface. The vegetation of this huge area can only be digested by ruminant animals and, because they are able to perform better under non-optimal conditions, long-adapted local breeds have the edge over high-performance breeds. While cross-breeding with exotic breeds may have positive effects in better-endowed environments without shortages of fodder and water, it has usually not fulfilled expectations in more marginal areas. Despite being a major focus of animal husbandry programmes, cross-breeding for better dairy cows has not always had a beneficial effect on the livelihoods of smallholders. India owes its enormous rise in milk output to buffaloes, not to cross-bred cows (Rangnekar, 2000).

Specificness of adaptions

Often the adaptation of local breeds is very specific and attuned to certain types of vegetation. Breeds may look outwardly the same and be adapted to the same kind of climatic regimes, but still differ in the way they are able to support themselves on local plants. This was the experience of restocking programmes for pastoralists in northern Kenya (P. Mulvany, personal communication). In Nigeria, it is also observed that breed distribution is strongly linked to the preference of individual breeds for different types of feed and that breed distribution changes as the overall environment of Nigeria evolves (Blench, 1999a). Other important adaptive traits include trypanotolerance, tolerance to worms and other parasites, salt tolerance, the ability to cover long distances and the ability to slow down the metabolism.

Independence from outside inputs and imports

In contrast to improved stock, local livestock is independent of outside inputs in terms of feed and care. Successful maintenance of improved or cross-bred breeds requires a certain level of inputs, from feeding (cereals and concentrate) to housing and health care. If such high inputs are not sustained, then the improved animals die, fail to produce, or become uneconomic. For instance, in Cuba and during the recent financial crisis in Southeast Asia, lack of foreign exchange to purchase cereal animal feed resulted in the collapse of intensive poultry and pig production, leading to a search for indigenous animal breeds that can be kept on locally available feedstuffs.

An example from South Africa

The local Nguni cattle breed was perceived as unproductive and farmers were induced to accept modern breeding packages, which included cross-breeding with exotics and modern animal health care (dips and other veterinary drugs). When the input supply broke down in the wake of the political changes in the early 1990s, the cross-bred cows could no longer perform economically. By that time, white farmers who had realized the advantages of the disease-resistant Nguni were the only ones who still maintained the breed. Now there are aid programmes to resupply poor farmers with Nguni stock (Blench, 1999b).

Raising productivity impacts adaptation

Raising productivity appears to impact the ability to cope with local conditions, as is illustrated by the example of the Orma Boran cattle. This breed is owned by the Orma people in the Tana River District, descendants of the Oromo who migrated there from the Boran area in Ethiopia between 1400 and 1500. Their cattle have thus been exposed to tsetse over several centuries. In trials, the Orma Boran cattle have been shown to be much more resistant to the tsetse fly than the improved Kenya Boran breed, which was selected on the basis of body weight. Under higher tsetse challenge, the Orma Boran grow faster than the improved Kenya Boran (Rowlands, 1995).

Women’s preference

Women very often prefer traditional breeds to improved ones, because they require fewer inputs, are less prone to disease and therefore do not create any additional worry. Projects in Ecuador to propagate larger and improved guinea pigs from Peru for generating additional income met with very little interest and response, because women did not want to have another burden on top of their household workload and were not really interested in selling guinea pigs anyway (Archetti, 1997).

Maintenance of rural income opportunities

Medium performance of local breeds also ensures rural employment. In Europe, the enormous rise in productivity of livestock may be a contributing factor to the current agricultural scenario where family farms are no longer viable and rural income opportunities disappear rapidly. A priori, this model does not seem appropriate for developing countries with their high levels of unemployment.

Incentives for community-based conservation through utilization

The most promising option for maintaining domestic animal diversity is to support, and provide incentives for, local communities to continue herding and husbanding their animal genetic resources in their respective ecological contexts, but with the opportunity to develop by responding to or taking advantage of changing marketing and macroeconomic situations. Such an approach suggests a win-win situation where conservation of domestic animal diversity can go hand-in-hand with the creation or maintenance of rural income opportunities. For such a strategy to succeed, a number of microlevel and macrolevel conditions have to be met.

Recognition of local breeds and related indigenous knowledge

Interdisciplinary research, validating indigenous knowledge through systematic documentation of the breeding practices and strategies of particular communities as well as the particular traits of their breeds, should be encouraged. Genetic impact statements based on surveys of local breed concepts and existing breeding institutions (such as community bulls) should be a standard component of all rural development practices. Special breeds should be given official recognition as national assets.

Secure land rights for pastoralists

Without a sufficient pasture base, pastoralists and landless livestock keepers will not be in a position to maintain indigenous AnGR, therefore guaranteed access to grazing grounds is an absolute prerequisite for conservation.

Pastoral breeds are global benefits

Because the wild ancestors of most domesticated animals are either extinct or on the verge of extinction, animals kept under the harsh conditions of pastoral systems are the main reservoir for genetic traits relating to disease and drought resistance, vitality and good reproductive capacity. Pastoral breeds hence represent global benefits and their loss can be considered in global terms, comparable perhaps with the situation regarding the tropical rain forests. A strong argument can be made for entitling countries with pastoral populations, which are usually least-developed countries, to receive incentives to maintain these global benefits.

Enhancing the attraction of livestock keeping

Herding animals often carries the stigma of being a backward profession. Making livestock keeping a more attractive proposition for youths from pastoral/rural backgrounds - by providing training that builds on traditional knowledge, concepts and values, but also includes appropriate modern technologies - is an avenue that should be explored.

Breeding societies

Support for breeding societies is seen as an important step in community-based conservation. Breeding societies can certainly fulfil important functions, such as information dissemination, exchange of animals and lobbying for brand names. However, the moulding of such societies exclusively along established lines, where fixed breed characteristics (such as colour, size, shape of the tail and ears) become the focus of breeding and are imposed on the population, should be avoided. The selection criteria that are at work in traditional low-input production systems (hardiness, disease and drought resistance) must never be compromised at the expense of adherence to narrow phenotypical characteristics.

Creation of marketing opportunities

Creating a demand for the products of local livestock breeds represents one of the best incentives for their conservation.

Niche markets/specialty products

Consumer demand and willingness to pay for higher-quality products is a prerequisite for niche marketing to be successful, since the comparatively lower productivity of local breeds must be compensated for by extra income (Lemke, 2000).

Regionally typical food products

In Europe there are a rising number of examples where demand for regionally typical food products has turned the conservation of local breeds into a commercially viable undertaking. In southwest France, for instance, the Centre for Conservation of a Regional Biological Inheritance in the Midi-Pyrenees pursues such a goal with respect to the Gascon Pig (Audiot and Flamant, 1994). Other European examples include:

Aubrac Cattle. The Aubrac cattle breed and its products are an important component of a more comprehensive programme to revitalize the rural economy in the Aubrac region of southern France. The traditional cheese made from the milk of this breed had almost been forgotten, but was revived and an Appellation d’Origine Controlée (AOC - label of origin) has been applied for. (The brand names of many French cheeses are protected and they can be made using only a particular breed.) The meat of this breed is already marketed under a special protected label.

Majorcan Black Pig. The Majorcan Black Pig is the only autochthonous pig breed from Majorca (Spain). After introduction of intensive production systems and foreign breeds in the 1960s, its population started to decline. In the 1980s a group of 89 farmers formed a breeding association and started pushing for a special label for local sausage (sobrasada) made exclusively from meat of this breed. In 1994 the Spanish Government created a registered trademark for this product (Jaume and Alfonso, 2000).

Sambucana Sheep. The Sambucana sheep from the Stura Valley in northern Italy was on the verge of extinction in the 1980s as a result of cross-breeding with rams of the higher-yielding Biella breed. However, the cross-breeds were not able to negotiate the steep terrain and cope with the cold climate, which led to the abandonment of pastures and overgrowth of old paths. A consortium was set up to save the breed. A special brand name for guaranteed Sambucana meat was set up by the Italian Industry Ministry Board (Luparia, 2000).

Need for market linkages

It will be more difficult to repeat the European model in developing countries. The experience concerning the Vietnamese I-pig, which is the subject of a conservation programme, was that farmers lauded this breed for its better meat quality, but consumers in nearby villages and towns preferred to buy the fatter, cheaper meat. Only in the capital and larger cities is it possible to find customers willing to pay a higher price for higher-quality meat, but marketing mechanisms to reach this clientele do not currently exist (Lemke, 2000).

Opportunity for the organic food market

Considering that they are kept under natural conditions, indigenous breeds would seem especially well suited to provide products for the market in organic foods.

Organically grown chicken in the Philippines. Integrated and Participatory Agriculture Research (IPAR), a Philippine NGO, is promoting organic poultry production using local breeds as an alternative form of livelihood for poor farmers (Barsomo, 2000).

"Natural" buffalo milk. An NGO in Uttar Pradesh (India) has launched a campaign that advertises the milk of transhumant Van Gujjars buffalo pastoralists as "natural", setting it apart from the "synthetic" milk produced by farmers who feed their cattle with urea supplements and use drugs (oxytocin) to milk out their animals.

Export production

Although interest among and demand by consumers from the developed countries in products of indigenous AnGR is conceivable, current import regulations and International Office of Epizootics (OIE) requirements are stacked against it. For instance, long-standing efforts by Mauretania to export camel milk as a health food to the European Union market have so far been unsuccessful.

Implementation of a community-based conservation programme: practical steps

Community projects for the conservation of animal breeds can be conducted according to the same principles that are applied to other resources (forest, pasture, crops, etc.). The following steps were suggested at a recent workshop held in Udaipur/Sadri (India) on the subject of local livestock breeds for sustainable rural livelihoods (see Local Livestock for Empowerment of Rural People [LIFE] Web site):

1. Documentation/appraisal, including:

participatory appraisal of the advantages and disadvantages of the local breed;

research into the factors that have led to its decline, such as:

- lack of a market or access to it;

- lack of a resource base because of the encroachment of agriculture (nature conservation projects, etc.);

- legal restrictions (sometimes cross-breeding is enforced and use of indigenous bulls is prohibited);

- lack of income opportunities and lack of interest of younger generations; and

- lack of competitiveness with improved breeds;

2. Survey for indigenous breeding institutions (e.g. community bulls, castration, ritual protection);

3. Analysis of limiting factors and identification of a strategy for overcoming them;

4. Setting of objectives in multistakeholder meetings and consultations to agree on respective commitments, financing plan, time frame, plan of action and monitoring and evaluation (M&E) procedures;

5. Awareness generation in order to distribute the knowledge of the value and significance of the breed, rally the support of as many community members as possible and sensitize government organizations;

6. Formation of an independent local institution/organization with legal status to serve as a focus and executive agency for conservation activities. It should be composed largely of community members. This will require mobilization and leadership development;

7. Training and capacity-building in order to ensure that the new organization and the community will be able to pursue conservation after the end of the project and outside inputs;

8. Overcoming constraints, i.e.:

securing of a resource base through negotiations, advocacy and facilitation;

development of markets or marketing channels for specialty products, through a market survey, research on processing methods, product launch, building up of a distribution network; and

negotiation of subsidies from government or other sources;

9. Impact assessment through participatory evaluation and exit of the project staff.

The following factors have been identified as contributing to sustainability of a conservation programme (adapted from Lemke, 2000):

The farmers are owners of the breed and benefit from it.

The animal owners have a sense of responsibility for the breed.

The animals are utilizing the farmers’ own feed/fodder.

Maintenance is labour-intensive and not capital-intensive.

The breed is part of the traditional culture and contributes to the keepers’ identity and self-respect.

The breed and its requirements are well understood.

The implementing organization is stable.

The project has government support.

The project has the support of other organizations, such as NGOs.

The project is self-administered by the community.

The animal keepers are involved in management decisions.

Keeping of the breeds is economically worthwhile.

Developing the genetic resources of communities

The local breeds or populations kept by communities may be endowed with genetic traits of interest to animal breeders in other areas (including the north) and therefore with commercial potential. These traits may not be immediately apparent or present in all individuals. Therefore there is a need for systematic screening, preferably involving participatory methods building on indigenous knowledge:

In the Highlands of Chiapas (Mexico), the extensive expertise of Tzotzil Indian shepherdesses in evaluating animals for fleece characteristics according to their indigenous knowledge is an important aspect of a genetic improvement programme for Chiapas sheep (Perezgrovas, 1999).

In Bolivia, a systematic search for desirable characteristics found that the local Ayapaya llama kept by the Wallat’ani community in the highlands had better fibre quality than the lowland llama and this now forms the basis of breeding activities to develop the Ayapaya ecotype further for the benefit of the local community (Valle Zárate, 1999).

Systematic evaluation of guinea pig strains revealed that local lines were better than exotic ones with respect to number of offspring born and weaned and total weight (Valle Zárate, 1999).

Aid to develop local breeds must be combined with efforts to empower local communities so that they will also receive commercial and other benefits from the unique genetic resources that they are nurturing.

Pastoralists’ rights and legal safeguards against biopiracy

The international debate on access to and benefit-sharing of genetic resources has so far focused exclusively on plants. With the inputs of a large number of NGOs, an International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources has been drafted that provides rights for farmers in return for their contribution to plant breeding. The situation with regard to AnGR has not been the subject of discussion, although it is not only different but also more pertinent. Animal breeders, and especially pastoralists, have much more of a "collective identity", because a breed, as discussed above, is often the product of communal institutions. Many animal breeds are associated with particular indigenous communities or ethnic groups whose identity is linked to those breeds and who regard themselves very much as their proprietors or even guardians. Moreover, they have developed elaborate social mechanisms to share these resources equitably within the community while preventing or limiting the access of outsiders to them. Thus, a much clearer case can be made for the "collective rights" of pastoralists than for traditional plant breeders.

Some of the animal genetic resources owned by indigenous communities have already been recognized as being of great interest to livestock producers elsewhere. Their qualities/genetic traits could vastly increase the efficiency even of industrialized animal production systems. One example is provided by the Red Maasai sheep, which is endowed with genetic resistance to internal parasites. This trait is of great interest to commercial sheep farmers in the North (particularly Australia and New Zealand, but also elsewhere), since helminths can no longer be combated with anthelmintic drugs (they have become immune to them). The prospect of the genetic sequence related to helminth resistance being identified by scientists raises the question of the ownership of this information and of the genes.

For reasons of fairness, appropriate intellectual property rights (IPR) regimes need to be developed to ensure that some benefits reach the communities who have developed and stewarded these AnGR for generations under difficult circumstances. The exact nature and scope of such benefits - which could be grazing rights, animal health care or monetary benefits - is an issue that warrants discussion involving all stakeholders. The implications of this issue for future global food security, the national interests of the countries involved and the livelihoods and right to self-determination of indigenous groups are enormous. Therefore, discussion and evaluation need to take place before policy options can be developed and formally instituted.


Adoption of a livelihoods approach towards AnGR

AnGR conservation must be approached holistically and not pursued as an isolated intervention. The link and interconnectedness between the sustainable management of domestic animal diversity and traditional livelihoods of indigenous people, especially pastoralists, needs to be made more apparent, for instance by commissioning research studies on indigenous knowledge about animal breeding. The Convention on Biodiversity entitles communities that keep rare genetic resources to assistance and benefits. It thus renders community-based AnGR conservation a tool and means for livelihood support to such communities.

Direct involvement of communities in conservation

Communities that have developed livestock breeds with unique genetic properties must become directly involved in decision-making, planning and implementation of projects. They need to be provided with legal support and assistance for intellectual property issues and should be entitled to subsidies for their role in protecting environments and landscapes by maintaining low-input breeds instead of switching to more profitable high-input and high-residue production systems (Valle Zárate, 1999).

Support to intermediary NGOs

In order to reach indigenous communities and to establish linkages between them and the national bodies responsible for domestic animal diversity, intermediary NGOs are necessary and play a crucial role. Financial support and capacity-building must be extended to appropriately qualified rural development NGOs so that they can assist indigenous communities in conservation/development and facilitate interaction between them and scientists, bureaucrats and policy-makers. One NGO-based initiative is the LIFE Network/Movement for Peoples’ Conservation of Domestic Animal Diversity, which approved the Sadri Declaration (see appendix) at a recent workshop in India (see LIFE Web site).

Control of the expansion of animal industries

It is predicted that the consumption of meat and milk in developing countries will rise exponentially until 2020 and that this demand will be met by the expansion of industrialized livestock production into these countries (IFPRI, 2000). If unchecked, this so-called "livestock revolution" will have negative consequences for all marginal livestock keepers and also for domestic animal diversity. The rush by livestock companies to become established in the opening markets of the developing countries must be stopped (Blair, 1994), or the effects will be drastic, especially on pig, poultry and cattle genetic diversity.

Policy forum on AnGR and intellectual property

There is a definite need for a special forum that stimulates and facilitates discussion of AnGR and IPR issues. Although the scope of the FAO Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (CGRFA) was expanded in 1995 to include livestock, its Intergovernmental Technical Working Group (ITWG), which is composed of government representatives and is without representatives of southern NGOs, has not considered this question. Yet, appropriate policies safeguarding the interests of all stakeholders are urgently needed.


I would like to thank Simon Anderson, Georg Kaesler, Annette von Lossau, Ernst Mill, Gustav Morkramer, Dominique Planchenault, Beate Scherf and Anne Valle Zárate for providing me with useful references or information.


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Sadri Declaration

being recommendations passed by the participants of the International Conference +
Workshop on Local Livestock Breeds for Sustainable
Rural Livelihoods
Udaipur and Sadri, 1 - 4 November 2000

Acknowledging the diverse roles of indigenous animal breeds for sustainable rural livelihoods in India (for food security, soil fertility, draught power, as social and cultural asset, source of income and saving etc.), especially in marginal areas,

being conscious of the threat to domestic animal diversity (due to government policies, economic pressures, increasing poverty, cultural erosion, etc., and

concerned about the lack of awareness in all spheres of stakeholders,

We recommend:

1. Policy changes concerning:

access to resources (grazing, water...);

changes in emphasis in the curriculum for veterinary and animal husbandry scientists, extension workers, etc. (more emphasis on biodiversity, conservation of indigenous breeds);

breeding policy reviews through consultative processes involving all stakeholders;

formulation of land use plans that guarantee land use/rights for indigenous breeds and indigenous livestock keepers.

2. Concerted actions by NGOs, CBOs and communities, including:

networking, documentation, awareness raising and dissemination of information about the situation and advantages of indigenous breeds;

improvement of marketing (niches) for the products of indigenous breeds;

developing of local institutions and breeding organizations.

3. Changing/expanding research on the needs of poor livestock keepers towards achieving:

improved economic situation of livestock keepers;

legal recognition of indigenous breeds as national assets;

maintenance of Indian domestic animal diversity (DAD) for the benefit of future generations.

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