Livestock are essential for food and nutrition security in sub-Saharan Africa. They serve multiple purposes and are economically important, contributing 20–40% of agricultural gross domestic product (GDP) – in some countries, up to 80%. Globally, by 2050, food production of animal origin is expected to double, to meet rising demand due to population growth and increased consumption in developing countries.
Sub-Saharan Africa has a great deal of livestock, but productivity is generally low. Climate change is expected to create new challenges, such as increased prevalence of diseases, heat stress, and reduced access to feed and water due to increased temperatures and more extreme weather conditions.
This policy brief examines the role of genetic diversity in adapting African livestock production to climate change and making it more sustainable. Some breeds are more resilient to harsh climate than others; at the same time, to the extent that breeding can improve productivity, it could reduce livestock’s environmental impact, including land and water use and greenhouse gas emissions.
The brief is based on an international seminar “Livestock Resources for Food Security in the Light of Climate Change”, held in March 2016 at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) in collaboration between SIANI, SLU Global and SLU’s Department of Animal Breeding and Genetics.
In general, the genetic potential of livestock in sub-Saharan Africa has been largely unexploited, as there are usually no long-term breeding strategies in place, nor adequate policies, infrastructure, livestock recording schemes or trained staff needed to support them.