An antelope walks at Kenya's Nairobi National Park in Nairobi, Kenya, March 21, 2015. Kenya's
An antelope walks at Kenya's Nairobi National Park in Nairobi, Kenya, March 21, 2015. Kenya's "long rains" season which usually begins in March is unpunctual this year, making both the people and wild animals of this country longing for the coming rains. (Xinhua/Yang Yang)

The African Union (AU) on Wednesday urged the continent to promote the conservation of indigenous animal breeds.

Josefa Correia Sacko, commissioner for rural economy and agriculture at the African Union Commission, said that the traditional breeds of cattle, sheep, goats, horses, pigs and poultry are considered inferior to more conventional international breeds.

“Recent concerns on the loss of diversity of indigenous animal breeds have led to renewed efforts to conserve and better utilize them and to identify and characterize them,” Sacko said during the launch of a report in Nairobi on the state of Farm Animal Genetic Resources in Africa.

Sacko said that lack of accurate and up-to-date information and data on African farm animal genetic resources in most of the countries on the continent has contributed to poor planning and interventions on these resources.

“In line with the Global Plan of Action on animal genetic resources of the Interlaken Declaration in 2007, the state of the farm animal genetic resources in Africa provides detailed information on the status of animal genetic diversity in Africa, the threats posed to our unique African genetic resources, the prevailing policy, legal and institutional environment, best practices and lessons learnt from past initiatives on genetic improvement,” Sacko said.

The report was produced by the African Union-Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR) and seeks to provide guidelines to promote conservation of Africa’s indigenous animal breeds.

Sacko noted that the document is the first of its kind and it provides baseline information and data as well as serving as an up-to-date reference material on the status and management of animal genetic resources.

“The report is also expected to fill in some of gaps identified, particularly in the Second State of the World’s Animal Genetic Resources report, which highlighted the enormity of the challenges Africa is facing including the loss of indigenous breeds,” he added.

Sacko observed that malnutrition is a major concern in Africa, particularly the lack of protein, because access is limited and starchy diets are predominant.

“For generations, this lack of protein has stunted the physical and mental development of millions of children hence limiting their overall potential,” she added.

Sacko revealed that farm animal genetic resources in Africa are key to poverty alleviation and contribute significantly towards food and nutritional security.

The AU official said that Africa’s indigenous animal breeds have many unique characteristics and are a heritage of the continent’s diverse rural communities.

AU also launched the Coffee Book on Cattle Breeds which highlights the rich diversity of cattle breeds in Africa.

Sacko observed that some of the traditional cattle breeds are endangered and Africa has to take steps and use every available resource to safeguard them from extinction.

The continental body also launched the Animal Genetics Resources Characterization, inventory and monitoring tool.

“The Genetics Project team, working in strong collaboration with key African experts and stakeholders, developed the tool to harmonize and standardize the way African animal genetic resources are tracked,” she added.

AU-IBAR has also developed the third version of the Animal Resources Information System (ARIS 3) which will assist AU member states to make informed decisions on animal resources.

Mwangi Kiunjuri, cabinet secretary in the ministry of agriculture, livestock and fisheries, said that the livestock sector plays a key role in Kenya’s economy.

Kiunjuri added that the livestock industry contributes 12 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) and is a key source of livelihood in arid and semi arid zones.

He noted that crossbreeding of indigenous and exotic animal breeds could lead to the extinction of the traditional livestock breeds which are more resilient to the effects of climate change. Enditem

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