Current state of knowledge on characterisation of farm animal genetic resources in Ethiopia
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Ethiopia has a large farm animal genetic diversity. The existence of this diversity is due in large part to its geographical location near the historical entry point of many livestock populations from Asia, its diverse topographic and climatic conditions, the huge livestock population size and the wide range in production systems. Livestock diversity in Ethiopia has suffered considerably due to the many wars, civil strife and cyclical famines. Growing transhumance and migrations in the lower altitude areas have resulted in massive interbreeding between traditionally isolated livestock populations. In the highlands, government sponsored crossbreeding programmes have severely compromised the sustenance of genetic diversity in indigenous livestock, especially cattle and poultry. Yet not much has been done to document the existing indigenous livestock breeds and the impacts of agricultural Development, increasing human populations and the booms and bursts in livestock population numbers associated with periodic good years and bad years. The national effort in Ethiopia towards systematic characterisation and documentation of livestock biodiversity has been negligible let alone planned interventions to curb the continuing threat of loss of genetic diversity. There is no national focal point to co-ordinate and monitor activities in characterisation, documentation and conservation of farm animal genetic resources in Ethiopia, and the two major sources of systematic information on characterization of Ethiopian AnGR are administered by international research institutions who have no functional links with any one national institution. This rather substantive national task therefore remains unattended for, and needs serious attention from researchers, policy makers and Development practitioners. There is a need to identify and mandate a national institution to be the focal point of such activities. This is indeed essential because, both inter-species and intra-species (between and within breeds) diversity provide better household livelihood security for the majority of rural and urban households. There is cause for concern on the low level of research and Development interest on the characterisation and conservation of farm animal genetic resources in this country.
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