191 Countries Adopt FAO’s Global Plan to Stop Livestock Extinction

The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) said that there is much to be done to catalogue, conserve, and better manage the genetic diversity of livestock. This is despite efforts by an increasing number of countries safeguarding the resilience of the world’s food production system.

According to FAO, countries have begun to take action and that 191 countries have adopted the Global Plan of Action for Animal Genetic Resources three years after. It was found that one livestock breed had been lost per month during the 2000-2007 periods. This shows that 20 percent of livestock breeds were at risk of extinction.

By far, there are ten countries that are reported to have established and are implementing national strategies on how to manage animal genetic resources. Another 28 have either finalized strategies and are implementing them or are in the midst of developing their plans.

FAO conducted an informal survey that shows a range of activities that are being taken on the ground. Belgium, for instance, is carrying out a major survey of sheep, cattle and pig breeds. This effort will result in genetic samples that will be stored in cryobanks.

Bolivia is involved in a similar effort with respect to camelids, guinea pigs, cattle, sheep, goats and pigs.

Kenya is including information on livestock holdings as part of its human population census and is preparing a national breed survey, while Ghana is recruiting and training specialists to help them characterize and conserve indigenous breeds.

In Asia, China has granted 138 indigenous breeds protected status and has established 199 conservation farms and gene banks at the state level.

However, FAO cautions that progress has not been consistent across all world regions. In its latest report on the status and trends of animal genetic resources, there is still 21 percent of livestock breeds that continue to be at risk of extinction. This include 1,710 breeds of livestock ranging from chickens to ostrich, and from donkeys to cattle, compared to 1,649 in 2008 and 1,491 in 2006.

Irene Hoffman, head of FAO’s Animal Genetic Resources Programme, said that existing animal gene pool contains valuable and irreplaceable resources that will be vital for food security and agricultural development.

“Like a well-balanced stock portfolio, genetic diversity makes food production more resilient in the face of threats like famine, drought, disease and the emerging challenge posed by climate change,’ said Hoffmann.

The report also includes and warns that information on population size and composition of an estimated 35 per cent of known mammalian and avian breeds are not known. Such gap poses a serious constraint to effectively prioritize and plan breed conservation measures.

FAO has developed a funding strategy aimed at channeling support towards improved animal genetic resource management and strengthening international cooperation for assisting developing countries implement the Global Plan of Action.