Animal Breeding / East Africa / Ethiopia / Genetics / ICARDA / Indigenous breeds / LIVESTOCK-FISH / Sheep / Small Ruminants

Community-based sheep improvement – research helps breed strong rural communities in Ethiopia

Menz sheep breeding cooperative members review ram quality. In Menz, a community-based sheep breeding project involves farmers in setting breeding objectives.

Ethiopia is known for having the largest livestock population of Africa. Across the country, millions of cattle, donkeys, camels, chickens, sheep and goats live and work alongside people. The relationships between people and animals are long-standing, close and deeply embedded in culture and traditions.

Animals are power for transport and ploughing, they are food and nutrition, their skins and wool can be turned into useful products, their dung fertilizes fields and fuels cooking fires, and their sale pays for education and other necessities.

Yet millions of rural people remain locked in poverty. They work long hours to feed themselves, they battle harsh natural environments, often far from roads, clinics and markets and they and their animals lead far less productive lives than their urban cousins.

The picture is not all bleak. Public services and infrastructure are fast expanding, markets are growing, fueled by urban and export demands for food, and agricultural growth and transformation is a driving goal of government.

Communities are also taking power into their own hands, transforming local resources into assets that benefit them all. Animals are often at the heart of this transformation.

In one corner of Menz, the community has taken to improved sheep breeding to help transform their lives.

Read the full post on the CGIAR Development Dialogues blog

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One thought on “Community-based sheep improvement – research helps breed strong rural communities in Ethiopia

  1. Globally there are about 800 million poor livestock keepers and most of these smallholders are located in developing countries. Technologies that worked elsewhere need to be customized to fit to local conditions in Africa. Cut-and-paste approach has failed to deliver the most needed systems improvement. Approaches such as community-based breeding, farmer-field-schools, participatory epidemiology, need to be customised with and for farmers, to make a difference. Creating enabling environment with initial small investment or donor support, helping farmers to access knowledge, technologies, best practices, policies and fully-engaging them in the process so that they blend their tradition knowledge in the best possible way to maximize benefits are fundamental for success.

    Increased consumption of animal-source foods is making the livestock sector as fastest-growing sectors in agriculture. The increasing demand is largely linked to human population growth, urbanization and associated increase in incomes. Unless smallholders are empowered through group breeding schemes, disease prevention and control, and enabled them through producers associations or co-ops, group breeders associations, livestock marketing associations, etc., the increased demand may not directly benefit them as globalization has left too many behind. Productivity improvement should translate into efficiency gain and improved economy of scale by reduced transaction costs for inputs and outputs. Farmers should be encouraged in animal identification and traceability, livestock performance recording. Sustaining results is the biggest challenge that needs to be forethought early in the project design.

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