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FAO-AG Confers an Outstanding Teamwork Award to the Animal Genetic Resources Team

News Article
6 February 2017

An Outstanding Teamwork Achievement Award was conferred on January 26 to the Animal Genetic Resources Team by the Agriculture and Consumer Protection Department of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) for its activities and superior accomplishments in supporting the Global Plan of Action for Animal Generic Resources (AnGR) and enhancing Member State capacities on characterization, conservation and sustainable improvement of locally-adapted livestock in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

The team is composed of staff from the Animal Production and Health Section of the Joint FAO/IAEA Centre of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture and FAO’s Animal Production and Health Division.

Since the Global Plan of Action for Animal Genetic Resources and the Interlaken Declaration were adopted by Member States and endorsed by FAO in 2007, the Animal Genetic Resources Team has been at the forefront of providing support to member countries for the effective implementation of national action plans. This support has also included global and regional networks, such as the Domestic Animal Diversity Network (DAD-Net) and provision of inputs, expertise and technical assistance. In 2016, specialized support was provided to 15 countries in Africa, 14 in Asia and 11 in Latin America to strengthen national animal identification and recording systems and genetic evaluation and selection. This has resulted in enhanced national capacities on breed characterization, scaling up local production of frozen semen and the establishment of community-based breeding programmes.

The operational strength of FAO’s Animal Production and Health Division in formulating effective strategies for characterization, sustainable breeding and conservation and the on-the-ground technical implementation expertise of the Joint FAO/IAEA Centre at country and regional levels were recognized as crucial. Collectively, it ensured the team’s ability to provide effective capacity building on the selection of superior animals for breeding and conservation of valuable locally-adapted animal genetic resources and on the efficient implementation of assisted reproductive technologies. These are important steps towards improving animal productivity, farmer livelihoods and food security in Member States.

Gerrit Viljoen, Joint FAO/IAEA Centre, pointed out: “Staff at the new molecular genetics laboratory in Burkina Faso were not only able to complete the characterization of their native cattle and sheep breeds; they also trained researchers from neighbouring Niger and Mali. Similarly, Myanmar and Tanzania were able to expand their local production of frozen semen from a few hundred doses per year to more than 50 000 doses in 2016, resulting in affordable access of smallholder farmers to artificial insemination services”.

Badi Besbes, Animal Production and Health Division, while highlighting the importance of animal identification and recording for genetic improvement, even in the era of genomic selection, recalled that animal health and traceability for market access have become major drivers for implementing such systems. It, thus, became necessary to adopt a broader approach to animal recording that accounts for multiple purposes and uses. So far more than ten countries have started implementing such an approach, with six of these being supported through FAO projects (Kyrgyzstan, Suriname, Swaziland, Tanzania, West Bank/Gaza Strip and Georgia).

Kathiravan Periasamy, Joint FAO/IAEA Centre, stressed the crucial importance of networking: “This makes for a rapid exchange of knowledge, information and resources. It also generates a cooperative spirit among scientists, extension services and farmers that resulted, among others, in the successful characterization of more than 170 breeds of indigenous livestock”.

Paul Boettcher of the Animal Production and Health Division underlined the complementarity of the two Divisions as a key strength. “Each of the two Divisions has its own clear objectives, expertise and focus. Although we provide direct support at the country level, the Animal Production and Health Division emphasizes policy, planning and strategy development, whereas our Joint FAO/IAEA Centre colleagues in Vienna have more opportunity to work hand-in-hand with the researchers. The lines of communication are always open, which helps to build synergy in the activities of the two groups.”

The joint team includes 1) the Joint FAO/IAEA Centre’s Giovanni Cattoli, Anna Gaggl, Mario Garcia Podesta, Polina Perelman, Kathiravan Periasamy, Rudolf Pichler, Mohammed Shamsuddin and Gerrit Viljoen; and 2) FAO Animal Production and Health Division’s Roswitha Baumung, Badi Besbes, Paul Boettcher, Antonella Falcone, Kafia FassiFihri, Gregoire Leroy and Gregorio Velasco.

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