African countries with fast increasing populations are faced with a serious need to substantially increase, food production and thus livestock productivity. Early efforts to increase livestock production levels were based on breeding policies which encouraged dilution o f indigenous germplasm through use o f extensive crossbreeding programs. Failure of these programs to improve productivity levels made livestock breeders aware o f the important role that indigenous breeds play in overall food production systems because of their adaptation to the stressful tropical environments in Africa. Though the need to conserve these local genotypes because of their adaptation qualities was recognized then, national breeding policies and strategies for a long time did not take this into consideration despite world wide concern to reduce the rate at which genetic diversity was being lost. Extensive crossbreeding continued in Africa, and as a result, a number o f indigenous breeds were lost and some continue to be threatened. Because o f the need to improve productivity, policies in most countries have been for conservation with continued improvement. Efforts are now being made to conserve a few breeds recognized to have a high production potential and those which have unique useful qualities, thus disregarding those breeds whose potential has not yet been assessed. Live populations (though small) o f cattle, sheep and goats were established in various countries for selection programs. Information on the rest o f the breeds is therefore needed to select from the large number that exists, those that should be conserved. Constraints in availability of breed information, sampling techniques and size of population to be maintained given large variations that exist within some o f the breeds and the low reproductive rate o f tropical livestock still need to be addressed
Proceedings of the World Congress on Genetics Applied to Livestock Production, Volume XIV. Dairy cattle genetics and breeding, adaptation and conservation., , 449–459, 1990
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