Invisible guardians: women manage livestock diversity

A new FAO study argues that women livestock-keepers must be recognised as major actors in efforts to maintain indigenous breeds, which are crucial for rural food security and animal genetics. Women’s contribution to managing and conserving indigenous livestock breeds is poorly documented and undervalued, according to the study Invisible guardians: women manage livestock diversity. Of the 600 million poor livestock keepers in the world, around two-thirds are women, whose men often have migrated to the cities. Indigenous breeds are adapted to the often harsh local conditions and can produce on local and often low-quality forage. Such breeds are a repository of genetic material, as they have important traits such as disease resistance and ability to tolerate drought and extreme heat – traits that could become even more important in the face of climate change. The role of women in safeguarding indigenous breeds and improving their genetics through careful breeding has not been appreciated. The booklet brings examples from many regions of the world, including pastoral systems in the Horn of Africa, to illustrate this role. Some countries have started to put programmes in place to reverse the decline in number of indigenous livestock breeds. The study suggests that these initiatives will be successful only if women’s role as keepers of indigenous livestock is taken into account. It recommends that gender issues are made central to projects, programmes and policies that focus on managing animal genetic resources.

Posted on 25 December 2012 in Pastoralism & Gender