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Ethiopia: Community-based breeding for genetic improvement of sheep and goats

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Hossena, Ethiopia – In 2009, ICARDA introduced community-based breeding program in Ethiopia. Commonly known by its acronym CBBP, the initiative combines selective breeding programs based on production parameters, including body weight and ability to produce offspring. This results in increased productivity and reduced mortality of sheep and goats. More than 30 programs have sprung up since then.

Evidence shows that indigenous small ruminant breeds have immense potential to contribute to sustainable livelihoods of smallholder farmers. To date, the program has directly benefited 3,200 households in 40 villages with an average of 20 percent income increase. Farmers have created 35 breeders’ cooperatives to participate in the program. There has been high demand for breeding rams and bucks from neighboring communities and other governmental and NGO programs.

Based on the success, ICARDA is starting to scale out the program together with Ethiopia’s National Agricultural Research System and the Ministry of Agriculture, with indirect support from the World Bank.

Earlier this year, the Agriculture Minister Gebregziabher Gebreyohannes visited Areka Agricultural Research Center in Doyogena in southern Ethiopia to learn about CBBP and its data collection and reproductive technologies, which enabled the local communities to adopt improved rams. Farmers, both women and men, shared the benefits of the breeding program. At an event named “Champion Sheep,” farmers received some of the best Doyogena animals, including rams and ewes. ICARDA donated ultrasound machines for pregnancy diagnosis to support eight reproductive platforms it has established together with the national partners throughout the country.

“In scaling out CBBP, it is important to continue to engage the public extension system, build capacity, and share experience,” said Aynalem Haile, ICARDA’s small ruminant senior scientist. “We should also provide farmers with access to inputs and market, which have been the central elements for CBBP’s success.”

The government has identified CBBP as the strategy for genetic improvement of small ruminants in the Ethiopia Master Plan and Growth and Transformation Plan II. “We are going to fully support the scaling out of CBBP throughout the country,” said Minister Gebreyohannes. “The integrated agro-industrial parks that will be established in different parts of the country will help enhance input access and create market linkage,” he added.

Most of the participating households in Menz, one of the CBBP sites, no longer need government-run safety-net programs that provide food. They now use income from sheep sales to buy food. The breeding cooperatives have been able to build capital from buying rams and bucks, as well as from other investments. For example, Bonga cooperative has a capital of around US$80,000.

The program is also being implemented in Uganda, Malawi, Tanzania, and South Africa.

The program was supported by the International Fund for Agricultural Development’s (IFAD) SmaRT Ethiopia Project – Improving the Performance of Pro-Poor Sheep and Goat Value Chains for Enhanced Livelihoods, Food and Nutrition Security in Ethiopia.