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Tropentag, October 5 - 7, 2004 in Berlin

"Rural Poverty Reduction
through Research for Development and Transformation"

Sustainable Use of Animal Genetic Resources under Unfavourable Production Conditions: an Institutional Perspective Within a Natural Resource Management Framework

Mirjam Steglich, Kurt-Johannes Peters

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Department for Animal Breeding in the Tropics and Subtropics, Germany


Animal genetic resources comprise all livestock species, breeds and populations domesticated for human purposes and their wild or semi-domesticated relatives. Animal genetic resources are rarely addressed in research for natural resource management. This, however, does not render them less important. On the contrary, animal genetic diversity is eroding at an alarming rate, while its long neglected genetic potential is presently perceived as invaluable for future developments.

Within the majority of rural smallholder production systems livestock constitute a valuable asset and a vital livelihood component. Exploiting the diversity within and between animal breeds, in this regard, contributes to the ability of these production systems to undergo changes and to provide for present and future food-security and other important livestock functions. Strategies for the conservation and sustainable use of animal genetic resources recognise that constant breed improvement intervention is necessary in order to maintain local adapted breeds as economically profitable and socially benefiting parts of production systems.

This paper introduces a conceptual frame for community-based management of animal genetic resources in which the yet never explicitly considered local level institutional development emerges as a key element for achieving sustainability in the utilisation of indigenous livestock breeds.

The emphasis on institutional development to respond newly arising demands for collective action in community-based animal genetic resource management is rooted in three subject areas. It is deduced from animal genetic theory. It is reflected in the operational difficulties experienced in breed improvement initiatives, where the concomitant of local institutions, namely, local participation is remaining a primary shortcoming. It is furthermore demonstrated from evidence in other natural resource management areas that local institutions, initially effective for decision-making and for resolving resource management conflicts, evolve into increasingly more complex structures with the capacity to tackle additional development needs.

Results of a case study conducted in West-Africa, analysing the institutional environment of a traditional cattle breeding system further underpin the need of the above delineated concept of explicitly including an institutional perspective into livestock development approaches. In this example, causes and effects of local institutional weaknesses became apparent. Local capacities and related options for participatory interventions were identified.

Keywords: Animal breeding, animal genetic resources, institutional development, natural resource management

Contact Address: Mirjam Steglich, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Department for Animal Breeding in the Tropics and Subtropics, Philippstraße 13, 10115 Berlin, Germany, e-mail: m.steglich@itc.gm

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