Animal breeding is typically a state-supported activity implemented by large national breeding programs with central data processing, estimation of ‘breeding values’ with complex statistical methods and central decisions about the use of male breeding animals.
In developing countries, centralized breeding schemes, entirely managed and controlled by governments – with minimal, if any, participation by farmers – were developed and implemented in many developing countries through a nucleus breeding unit limited to a central station. These centralized schemes were usually run by a governmental organization attempting to undertake all or part of the complex processes and breeding strategy roles (i.e. data recording, genetic evaluation, selection, delivery of genetic change, and feedback to farmers).
Although well intended, these centralized schemes failed to sustainably provide the desired genetic improvements (continuous provision of a sufficient number and quality of improved males to smallholders) and also failed to engage the participation of the end-users in the process.
Another widely-followed approach is to import improved commercial breeds in the form of live animals, semen, or embryos. These are crossbred with the indigenous and ‘less productive’ breeds to upgrade them, but in most cases, it is done without sufficient testing of the appropriateness (suitability and adaptability) of the breeds and their resulting crosses to local production systems or conditions. Where indiscriminate crossbreeding with the local populations has been practiced, genetic erosion of the adapted indigenous populations and breeds has occurred.
A third approach is community-based breeding that builds farmer participation into selection and breeding processes, from inception through to implementation.
This approach has been the basis for community-based sheep breeding programs in Ethiopia led by the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU), and partners from the National Agricultural Research System.
This project report provides preliminary results from these breeding programs. It evaluates progress in the implementation of community-based breeding programs (CBBPs), evaluates the growth and reproduction performance of Ethiopian sheep breeds kept under CBBPs and studies the effects of non-genetic factors on performance of sheep breeds in Ethiopia.