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Women are invisible guardians of livestock diversity

January 11, 2013

Traditional and indigenous livestock breeds, often managed by women, are well adapted to local environmental conditions, typically being tolerant of extreme weather, disease resistant and able to thrive on poor forage. But while the value of indigenous breeds has been long known, breed population figures are often unreported or out of date, making livestock diversity difficult to estimate.

According to latest figures released by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) however, over one-fifth (22%) of all the worlds livestock breeds are now classified as being at risk of extinction.Such breeds may not produce a lot of meat, milk or eggs but they are low maintenance, which is particularly of value to women, who often cannot afford the inputs for more exotic livestock or cross-breeds.

Of the 600 million poor livestock keepers in the world, around two-thirds are women, yet according to a new FAO study, women's contribution to indigenous livestock breeding and conservation is poorly documented and undervalued.

The study, Invisible Guardians: Women manage livestock diversity, highlights the role of women in safeguarding indigenous breeds and improving their genetics through careful breeding.

Traditional and indigenous livestock breeds, often managed by women, are well adapted to local environmental conditions, typically being tolerant of extreme weather, disease resistant and able to thrive on poor forage. But while the value of indigenous breeds has been long known, breed population figures are often unreported or out of date, making livestock diversity difficult to estimate.