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The value of indigenous animal breeds

In Thailand, 25 years ago, farmers were encouraged to cross-breed their indigenous Kao Lamphun cattle with a western breed. After several generations, the farmers began to realize that the cross-breed could not reproduce regularly and did not gain weight quickly enough after the dry season. Five years ago, the farmers formed a cooperative and went to the government and asked to have their Kao Lamphun cattle back. The government agreed and now the farmers' herds have tripled in size.

Kao Lamphun cattle in Thailand

In Indonesia, the Ayam Nunukan chickens are indigenous to eastern Java. They survive on the food they can forage in the yard and the rice grains that farmers occasionally give them. When the economic crisis hit Indonesia, Imas Maskanah needed cash and she sold 40 chickens. Friends who kept imported chicken breeds, on the other hand, found that they were no longer able to afford the imported grain that the birds needed.

Ayam Nunukan chickens in Indonesia

In Viet Nam, the government introduced the I pig - an indigenous breed that was facing extinction - to women who kept pigs to supplement family income. The I pig was small and farmers were opting for larger breeds that produced more meat for the market. But the government showed the women that the I pig can survive on a diet of sweet potato leaves and rice bran, in low standard housing and is resistant to disease. Also, because it is small, it is easier for the women to handle. Now the women alternate litters. One remains the pure breed, and the next is crossed with a larger breed so the offspring can be marketed. So the pure breed is conserved and the women's income level is maintained.

I piglets in Viet Nam

The stories of these indigenous breeds and many others are documented in FAO's newly created Domestic Animal Diversity Video Archive.

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1 June 1999

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