New tools to improve utilisation of farm animal genetic resources in developing countries

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) has recently launched important new information and training resources designed to improve utilisation of the full spectrum of animal genetic resources available in developing countries.

 improve utilisation of farm animal genetic resources
DAGRIS project team leader Tadelle Dessie among cattle in the Ghibe Valley of southwestern Ethiopia.

Throughout the developing world, rapidly increasing populations and changing lifestyles will continue to cause massive increases in demand for foods of animal origin. Key to meeting that demand – and to preventing widespread hunger and malnutrition – are the unique genetic resources found in thousands of locally adapted indigenous breeds of livestock. However, lack of accessible information on these breeds and a shortage of teachers and researchers specialising in animal genetic resources are currently major constraints. The result: in developing countries very few people are appropriately trained in animal breeding and genetics and many genetic conservation and livestock improvement programmes are unsuccessful; globally, a third of the world’s 5,000 breeds of livestock are at high risk of extinction and more than 700 have already been lost.
The Domestic Animal Genetic Resources Information System (DAGRIS) is a database which aims to assemble and make readily available in the public domain information – drawn from both formal publications as well as the ‘grey’ literature – on the origin, distribution, diversity, use and status of local breeds. Starting with African breeds of cattle, sheep and goats and recently adding pigs and chicken from Africa and Asia, it hopes to eventually expand its coverage to include geese, ducks and turkeys and also Latin America and the Caribbean. To further enhance capacity at the national level, ‘Country DAGRIS’ will also be established with local partners supported by ILRI to better meet their specific research and development needs. DAGRIS is available both on-line and via CD-ROM, and will be regularly updated as more information becomes available. Click here for a two page brief on DAGRIS.

The Animal Genetics Training Resource (AGTR) is a unique, ‘one-stop’, user-friendly, interactive, multimedia resource, targeted at both researchers and scientists teaching and supervising graduate and post-graduate students in animal breeding and genetics. It consists of core modules, case studies from developing countries, exercises, tools, a library and has links to many other information sources on and related to animal genetic resources, including DAGRIS. It covers established as well as rapidly developing areas, such as gene-based technologies and their application in livestock breeding programmes. Today’s university students are tomorrow’s researchers, lecturers, animal breeders and policy makers: by increasing the capacity of their teachers, AGTR aims to better equip them to rise to the challenge of effectively utilising indigenous animal genetic resources to achieve sustainable food and nutritional security.

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