Animal Breeding / Event / Genetics / LIVESTOCK-FISH

Where livestock and fish genetics intertwine: Results of the first genetics team meeting

On 30-31 Jul 2012, scientists from the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and WorldFish working on the genetics component of the Livestock and Fish research program of the CGIAR came together for a team meeting at ILRI, Nairobi. The objectives of this meeting were to develop a common understanding of the objectives of the Component and the proposed approach, review and refine the implementation plan and agree on the agenda for 2012, identify resource mobilization priorities and agree on responsibilities.

Genetics has and continues to play an important role in agriculture research. It has enabled scientists to be able to develop improved livestock and fish breeds with desired traits. Some of these traits result in animals better adapted to various environmental conditions, disease-resistant animals and animals that are more productive thereby contributing to improved livelihoods for farmers. Genetics is a discipline that can contribute significantly to agricultural development and represents one of the three technological components of the Livestock and Fish research program of the CGIAR, the other two components being animal health and feeds and forages.

The genetics vision

The meeting, which was the first of its kind where team members of the component got a chance to meet face to face, saw the participants discussing the vision and a strategy for the component. The team defined what success to them would look like in10 years, which some described as a time when they would be proud of the impact of their genetics work on people’s lives and a compelling evidence base to confirm that impact. They would like the animal-source food value chains targeted by the program — which include smallholder dairy, pig, small ruminants and aquaculture — to be fully integrated and taking advantage of what genetics has to offer, as well as establishing self-sustaining institutions through capacity building for continuing research along these lines. And, they would like to have developed tools and methods of delivering improved genetics to the needs of the market, and the relevant stakeholders and institutions.

Stephen Hall, the director general of the WorldFish Center, in an interview after the meeting noted that, “the most important thing is that we articulate a very clear guiding strategy for this component that integrates all of the animal genetics work of the CGIAR Research Program to show everyone where we are heading and why. We made some progress with this at this meeting, but more work is needed. Continuously reviewing our progress against that strategy then becomes the key process for integrating our efforts.”

During the two-day meeting, the team was able to better understand genetics from the livestock and fish perspectives while looking at areas where they can integrate, learn from each other and support one another.

“The obvious similarities between the livestock and fish genetics are that the fundamental genetic principles are the same. That means that we can share knowledge and expertise on the technical aspects of genetic improvement across the whole  program,” Stephen Hall noted.

The participants outlined the various activities that they separately work on and how these activities will contribute to the overall program. In addition, a short-term plan of action that would enable them to start working on the component was outlined.

With a vision of success, a general better understanding of the component and a more synergized team, this meeting marked the beginning of what is going to be a collaborative and exciting genetics journey that promises to contribute to ‘more meat, milk and fish by and for the poor’.

Photo credit: ‘Abstract lights‘ uploaded by Darren Foster to stock.xchng

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