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Traditional Livestock Breeds: Geographical Distribution and Dynamics in Relation to the Ecology of West Africa

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Type: Working Paper
Author: Blench, Roger
Date: 1999
Agency: Overseas Development Institute, London
Series: Working Paper, no. 122
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/4732
Sector: Grazing
Region: Africa
Subject(s): productivity
genetic resources
Abstract: "Until recently, technical ruminant livestock interventions throughout much of Africa have focused on the introduction of ‘new’ or ‘improved’ livestock breeds. Impressionistic accounts of indigenous or anciently established breeds suggested to developers that their productivity was low compared with European livestock. This was particularly salient in the case of dairy cattle, when the comparison was made between indigenous breeds customarily milked when they were suckling a calf and exotic European dairy breeds heavily selected for high yields of watery milk. While results from stations and university farms across Africa showed that productivity could improve under more intensive management, the baseline was still so low that the importation of exotic breeds was seen a means to short-circuit the otherwise slow process of breeding more productive stock (Blench, 1997a). Moreover, occasional successful farms using European breeds, though usually based on economically unrealistic management practices, seemed to validate such a strategy (Dunbar, 1970). In reality, however, in West-Central Africa such ranches or farms never were sustained on a long-term basis. The European stock that was imported either died or was cross-bred with local animals to such an extent that whatever desirable characteristics it originally possessed disappeared. High-input farms in Kenya and Southern Africa, supplying urban markets with relatively developed infrastructure may be said to constitute a partial exception. However, in terms of the continent, imported breeds have largely been a failure. This is particularly the case in West Africa, where the traditional sector continues to supply almost all of the meat requirements in the region (RIM 1992, Volume VI). Livestock production remains essential to the food security in the poorest households and those situated in marginal areas and the pattern of development tended to ignore these."

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