Over the centuries, small-scale livestock keepers and pastoralists developed many of the world’s livestock breeds. These breeds are vital stores of animal biodiversity: genes that provide resistance to pests and disease, tolerance to drought and other adverse conditions, the ability to survive in harsh environments, and other valuable traits. By maintaining their herds, small-scale livestock keepers and pastoralists are guardians of this biodiversity.
But their way of life is under threat from broad-scale changes in the economy, advances in technology, and the privatization of the world’s genetic heritage. As a result, many unique breeds are threatened with extinction. If we are to maintain this gene pool, it is vital to ensure that livestock keepers can continue to raise their animals and develop breeds that are adapted to a changing environment.
The League for Pastoral Peoples’ booklet, Livestock keepers’ rights: Conserving breeds, supporting livelihoods, outlines the case for supporting the rights of livestock keepers in order to conserve animal genetic diversity.
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Pastoralists’ rights to animal genetic resources were the focus of a paper presented at the Third International Conference on Biodiversity and Organic Agriculture in Nairobi in September 2004.
The paper was written jointly by Intermediate Technology Development Group veterinarian Jacob Wanyama and the League for Pastoral Peoples. Dr Wanyama presented the paper during a workshop on 25 September 2004 on biodiversity and animal husbandry. The workshop organizer was LPP member Anita Idel, Anita.Idel@t-online.de, of the organization Project Management Animal Health & Agrobiodiversity.
The conference, held on 24-26 September, focused on the role of organic agriculture in protecting biodiversity. It was organized by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM). For details of the programme see www.ifoam.org