HIPPOLYTE DOSSA, CLEMENS WOLLNY
Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Animal Breeding and Husbandry in the Tropics and Subtropics, Germany
In Benin, small ruminants are traditionally kept in smallholdings in almost all rural households. They play an important role in the livelihoods of poor people, particularly women. The need for sustainable livestock improvement strategies to increase the livelihoods of these poor people is evident. The existing farm animal genetic resources are still poorly characterised and most improvement programmes have resorted to crossbreeding or direct substitution. Breeding programmes, that take into account the ecological, socio-economic conditions, objectives and preferences of the farmers, are lacking. The Convention on Biodiversity states that genetic resources should be conserved in the surroundings where they have developed their distinct properties and that knowledge, innovations and practices of local communities should be used for sustainable use of biological diversity. The framework proposed in this paper aims at ensuring the full and active participation of farmers in the sustainable use of the existing small ruminant genetic resources. Spatial differentiation by agro-ecological and socio-economic conditions will be quantified due to resource allocation and production objectives, including breed/traits preferences. An assessment of the biophysical and socio-economic circumstances of farmers using PRA methods and the integration of data within a GIS environment is expected to present a more realistic picture of the extent of interactions among key variables. Obtaining the perspectives of different farmers in agro"=ecological zones ranging from humid to semi"=arid zones through participatory research, analysing the details of their management practices and local knowledge and characterising their animals is expected to guide recommendation domains for community"=based management strategies and actions. Implementation will be facilitated through regular community meetings and interactive learning sessions using the ``expert farmer'' approach. The expected outcome of the action research approach is to develop and implement a sustainable breeding programme that reflects the objectives of farmers and conserves the local animal genetic resources.
Keywords: Expert farmer, animal genetic resources, Benin, breeding programmes, community-based management