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PROGEBE: For a productive trypanotolerant livestock contributing to food security and poverty alleviation in West Africa

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The Regional Project on Sustainable Management of Endemic Ruminant Livestock (PROGEBE) resulted from the will of The Gambia, Guinea, Mali and Senegal to implement preservation measures for the trypanotolerant livestock (Ndama cattle, Djallonké sheep and West African dwarf goat) and its natural habitat.

Their trypanotolerance gives these breeds the unique ability to survive and in areas infested by tsetse flies that transmit trypanosomiasis. This disease, which causes rapid death or chronic weakness of livestock, is one of the major constraints to livestock development in sub-humid zones. These breeds are also known as endemic to the extent that they are prevalent in or peculiar to a particular area.

Currently, due to various factors (demographic pressure, climate change, human activity, deforestation, agriculture, bush fires, and cross-breeding with non-trypanotolerant livestock, in particular), the specific genetic traits of the trypanotolerant breeds are increasingly disappearing. Thus, the common genetic heritage of this livestock resistant to trypanosomiasis may disappear, threatening the production base of areas affected and therefore the living conditions of the people owning this livestock.

To face the challenge of this threat and promote its productivity, The Gambia, Guinea, Mali and Senegal established the PROGEBE, with the support of donors. PROGEBE is funded with a total of almost USD 44 million over six years by the African Development Bank (AfDB), the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the governments of the four member countries, respectively for 68 percent, 23 percent and nine percent of the funds.

Its current achievements concern mainly the genetic improvement of endemic ruminant livestock (ERL) and its livestock techniques, sustainable management of its ecosystem and promotion of an enabling legal, policy and institutional framework for its development and productivity increase.

A genetic improvement program of these breeds was set up in the four countries. The system includes five station herds hosted by five livestock centers and 120 village cattle herds multipliers. The station herds produce selected bulls for village herds enabling the dissemination of the characteristics of endemic ruminant livestock. Thirty selected bulls have already been transferred to rural areas. Furthermore, to overcome the countries’ limited technical expertise in animal genetics, seven national experts are being trained in this field. Project initiatives have also lead to the establishment of a regional mechanism for the sustainable management of animal genetic resources (AnGR) in West and Central Africa.

Dr. Moustapha Mouhamadou Cissokho, Veterinary, Senior Research Scientist, CRZ, Kolda, Senegal, states that "Thanks to PROGEBE, genetic improvement activities at CRZ, dormant for many years have been relaunched through its substantial support in logistical and financial resources and the rehabilitation of the infrastructures of the center. For the sustainability of the system, the project encourages and supports the process of gradual involvement of agro-pastoralists in the management of the nucleus foundation."

To improve livestock conditions and enhance the potential of production and productivity increase of endemic ruminant livestock, PROGEBE has focused on capacity building. More than 122 technicians, 175 relays and 2,800 agro-pastoralists have been trained in animal health, reproduction, nutrition and habitat. Village multiplier herds act as demonstration herds for the dissemination of technical themes.

At country level, training courses and their demultiplication at grass-roots level have led to a significant improvement of livestock techniques and an increased productivity of endemic ruminant livestock (meat, milk and income) thereby arousing interest in agro-pastoralists for these breeds. This allows the maintenance of livestock systems with low financial investment particularly important for inclusive and sustainable poverty alleviation strategies taking into account the specific concerns of vulnerable groups.

Mrs. Astèle. Diallo, a cattle herd owner reports: "With the guidance of the project team, I have hired a shepherd to regularly attend to my herd. My animals do not pass the night in the bush anymore and join every night the pen I have built. I monitor better the health of my animals, especially pregnant females. Now I only have one sire in my herd, all other bulls of childbearing age have been castrated."

For the preservation of ERL natural habitat, community-based approaches to sustainable management of natural resources are promoted through the participatory and collaborative development of about 20 Land Use and Allocation Plans (POAS) within the four countries. These POAS have provided also mobilization frameworks for the development of almost 350 km of stock routes and 710 km of firewalls, promotion of endogenous initiatives for bush fires control and actions towards conservation and restoration of degraded areas.

For his part, Mr. Mamadou Sy, Chairman of an association of environment relays, said: "Our association was supported by the project with the provision of bushfire control equipment we are now using for fire suppression, but also to open and clean firewalls. Now we better control and fight bushfires, allowing a better protection of the village pastures thus ensuring availability of feed for our animals until the rainy season."

Various investments are completed or ongoing to support the promotion and facilitation of transactions related to the marketing of ERL and its products. The rehabilitation or construction and equipment of livestock community infrastructures (17 slaughtering areas, 2 regional livestock markets, 17 local livestock markets, 11 mini-dairies, 160 feeder roads, 2850 stock routes and various watering points) are underway in the other four countries.

To date, the action of the project has allowed to i) strengthen the interest of political authorities and other stakeholders for the sustainable management of endemic ruminant livestock and increase of resources invested by countries for its promotion, ii) initiate a regional and concerted dynamic for the sustainable management of animal genetic resources, and iii) contribute to biodiversity, food security and poverty alleviation with gender aspect well taken into account in the implementation of the project and future of PROGEBE outcomes likely to be environmentally sustained.

In perspective, it is foreseen that the consultative mechanisms established at national and regional levels will ensure the maintenance of the momentum gained for AnGR sustainable management.

Designed as an experimental and innovative regional project aimed at both the animal and its environment, based on partnership and implemented following a participatory and inclusive approach, it is also expected that PROGEBE will be a source of inspiration and replication in the sub-region and beyond.