Livestock play important roles in the production of food and for other purposes. The diversified use of livestock on average contributes to between 10% and 50% of the gross domestic product (GDP) of countries in the tropical developing world. About 70% of the world’s rural poor depend on livestock for their livelihood (FAO, 2005a). Livestock, therefore, are of great socio-economic and cultural value in various societies around the world. This situation and implications for the future use of animal genetic resources (AnGR) can be summarized as follows:

  • There is a great challenge to alleviate poverty in developing countries by producing more and safe food, especially of animal origin, against a shrinking animal genetic diversity and increased global trade. There must be a livestock revolution in the developing world to meet the projected demands of more than double the current meat and milk consumption in these countries over the next 20 years. This demand cannot only be met by an increased number of animals; increased productivity is also required.
  • The potential of indigenous breeds in developing countries is often inadequately documented and utilized.  
  • The value of AnGR conservation is generally underestimated, as the current indirect values are often neglected; the future option values are yet to be accurately estimated and predicted, yet the most efficient way to sustain a breed is to continuously keep it commercially competitive or culturally viable.  
  • Global initiatives must be locally internalized and accompanied by local activities to implement conservation programmes that increase animal productivity while maintaining the necessary genetic diversity. Previous conservation/improvement programmes have often failed. Good and simple examples that demonstrate effective breeding strategies (which take into account environmental, socio-economic and infrastructure constraints) must be developed.

Research and capacity building at all levels to improve the knowledge of indigenous and alternative AnGR in different regions of the developing world is required. The implementation of sustainable breeding strategies in the tropical developing world will be instrumental to increasing awareness of the roles of livestock and their genetic diversity.