Earlier this year, the Debre Birhan Agricultural Research Centre was awarded a gold medal for outstanding research on Menz sheep breeding from the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology.
Mrs Diriba and her family live in a small village in the Horro woreda, in the Oromia region of Ethiopia. Like many other highland sheep farmers, they worry a lot about the poor growth, particularly about losing animals to infectious diseases. Poor reproductive performance and high lamb mortality are huge problems for sheep farmers.
In April this year, the International Fund for Agricultural Development agreed to co-finance a three year project to improve the performance of pro-poor sheep and goat value chains for enhanced livelihoods, food and nutrition security in Ethiopia. The project is led by the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) with contributions from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR).
Genetic improvement of small ruminants has been identified as a “best bet” in Ethiopia’s highland areas. As part of the Livestock and Fish small ruminant value chain development activities in Ethiopias, community-based breeding programs established through an earlier project (located in Horro, Menz, Bonga and Abergelle) were strengthened and new ones were established in Atsbi and Doyogena.
The Livestock and Fish program combines a focus on value chain development in a few target countries with ‘technology’ research on animal feeding, genetics and health. In Ethiopia, this has led to support for academic research grounded in the value chain needs identified in recent years.
A community in Mena, Ethiopia, is running a community-based breeding project with their sheep. After 5 years, researchers are seeing positive results in terms of people’s livelihods and income, collective efforts, community empowerment, and the quality of the local sheep.
ICARDA recently invited livestock breeders, livestock nutritionists and socio-economists from partner research centers in Ethiopia to a consultative workshop to discuss the possibilities of modifying existing feeding strategies in sheep flocks in the context of the ongoing Community-Based Sheep Breeding Program in Ethiopia.