Issues and concerns in smallholder livestock genetic improvement programs in Africa


  • Never Assan Zimbabwe Open University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Agriculture Management, Bulawayo Region, Box 3550, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe


Smallholder; Livestock Improvement; Issues; Concerns; Africa


Improvement of smallholder livestock genetic resources is  of vital importance to agriculture, food production, rural development and the environment on the African continent. Inconclusive considerable debate on smallholder livestock improvement strategies and  utilization of local livestock  genetic resources  has been going on since the past two  decades. This has been necessitated by the realization of the  need to reduce poverty and enhance food security and  produce more animal products to feed the ever increasing national populations in Africa, which seen more compelling than ever. It has been acknowledged that partly the overall continental increase in livestock productivity can be achieved through appropriate and support of the smallholder livestock improvement programs. It is believed that within the smallholder livestock production systems which is characterized by a generally low input-output system, the sustainability of animal breeding efforts to improve animal productivity becomes a dominant factor.  Smallholder livestock improvement  is not achieving the expected increase in livestock productivity to meet the growing  demand for animal products  for several reasons, including poor infrastructure, investment environment, financial resources and lack of local expertise and scientific research in addition to poor livestock support  services. There is perceived need for improved livestock  production in the smallholder areas, however livestock productivity has remained very  low,  but indigenous livestock  are numerous which makes them  attractive as potential tool for poverty reduction and improvement of family food security and livelihoods in smallholder farming in Africa. Changes in the demand for livestock products will be  largely be  driven by human population growth, income growth and urbanization, however the  production response in different livestock production  systems to meet this demand will be  associated with livestock improvement thrust which  take into account the modern science and technology  in livestock improvement. This  discussion  attempts a rapid summary of some issues and concerns   perceived important in promoting smallholder livestock improvement programs,  in relation to recent and previous  outcomes, coupled with a brief assessment of some of the challenges faced in implementation of smallholder livestock improvement programs. Some of the challenges and opportunities such as unfavorable livestock policies, dilapidated infrastructure and limited livestock research and characterization of local livestock populations are highlighted. Genetic improvement of livestock indigenous to Africa for targeted performance characteristics of economic benefit for smallholder farmers is necessary for effective selection for both use in straight breeding and crossbreeding.  In future, livestock  improvement  programs  are  likely to be increasingly characterized by differences between developed and developing countries, and between highly intensive production systems on the one hand and smallholder livestock production on the other hand. How  smallholder livestock improvement programs will be implemented  in the coming decades is highly uncertain, however, of the many uncertainties, one  seem over-arching. Can future demand for livestock products be met through sustainable intensification of smallholder livestock improvement  programs on the African continent? With the right institutional and financial arrangements, government, research institutions and donor agencies support can assist in successful implementation of smallholder livestock improvement programs on the continent, improving the capacity of smallholder livestock resource poor farmers to contribute significantly to individual national economies.


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Assan, N. . (2014). Issues and concerns in smallholder livestock genetic improvement programs in Africa. Scientific Journal of Animal Science, 3(6), 152-166. Retrieved from



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