The Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) recently held the 2nd international conference on Agricultural and Rural Development in Southeast Asia (ARD2014) on 12-13 November 2014 in Manila, Philippines.
This high-level conference addressed the theme, ‘Strengthening resilience, equity, and integration in ASEAN food and agriculture systems’. Key issues discussed at the meeting were productivity improvement, inclusive value chains, sustainability and poverty reduction, food security and food safety, institutions and governance and regional cooperation and integration.
More than 450 representatives from international development agencies, research centres, academic institutions, governments and civil society attended the meeting.
Steve Staal, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) regional representative for East and Southeast Asia, delivered a presentation on ‘The sustainable use of animal genetics in developing countries’ in the session on ‘productivity improvement’. The talk highlighted how demand for livestock products is growing strongly in Southeast Asia, which is driving increased use of higher productivity and mostly exotic livestock breeds among small-scale producers and larger commercial producers.
However, governments are increasingly recognizing the value of conserving genetic diversity of animals in Southeast Asia, particularly in poultry and pigs. Is it, however, fair to ask farmers to maintain and conserve animal genetic resources at the expense of productivity gains and income?
According to Staal, ex-situ conservation of animal genetic resources is increasingly being used as an alternative to help farmers improve both breeds and their production. Bolstered by new technologies which are making it possible to collect and assemble scientific data, unique breed characteristics can now be conserved at the gene, genetic and animal levels. But in-situ conservation is still important both in terms of meeting specific farmers’ demands and meeting supply requirements. On the demand side, new market-driven models are being developed to raise consumer demand for specific traits of local breeds through innovative branding and marketing, while in terms of supply, exciting new genomic tools to increase adaptability and productivity of local breeds are very rapidly being developed, increasing their attractiveness to producers.
Read more about animal genetic resources research at ILRI.
I hope this sensitisation would cut across the ACP countries, especially where governments are still dragging their feet on the need to pay attention to conservation and sustainable utilization of locally adapted livestock diversity.