Reunion Interanual de la International Goat Association, La Palma, Canary Islands, Spain
Main conclusions of the IGA regional meeting, Santa Cruz de la Palma (Canary Islands), October 4-5, "Local Goat Genotypes and their Utilization in Management Systems as Means of Conservation"
The purpose of this meeting was to join an IGA regional meeting with the regular Iberian Congress of the Spanish Society of Animal Genetic Resources and the Portuguese Society of Animal Genetic Resources. This meeting was located in La Palma, a small Canary island with a local goat breed, the Palmera breed* and specific extensive pastoral traditional systems.
Around 90 scientists and technicians** from the Iberian Peninsula, as well as from Latin America (Brazil, Mexico, Uruguay, Guatemala, etc.), who were involved in the conservation of local animal breeds including; goats, cattle, sheep, poultry, pigs and even snails, presented theirs works and discussed the future of local breeds and their conservation.
The debates have underlined the gap between the often intensified developed countries and the situation of goats in many rural areas in developing countries. 700 scientific journal articles are published on goats each year with 50% of them being produced in Europe and USA although most of the goats are found on other continents. Most of the selection centers and initiatives to characterize and preserve local and often endangered goat breeds are located in the first ones; in the others, where goat numbers have increased significantly, local and generally uncharacterized populations are the majority. Used for the auto consumption of milk, meat and fibers by local villagers, the goats contribute significantly to food sufficiency of the population. The debates have confirmed that the absolute priority should be to support the project of improving the conditions of management with simple and clear individual (animal nutrition, individual within flock selection) or collective (identification, animal health) tools and services.
The communications and main reports have also specified the real genetic situation of the goat breeds and populations, thanks to very recent new studies and very modern techniques using the genetics markers and works applying micro satellites and mitochondria DNA markers. Although these results have to be developed and confirmed, they show than for more than others species, the genetic variability of the goat species is lower between breeds, than between animals from a precise local population. For instance, the relations between the Ibero-American goat populations and the Canarian, Spanish, Portuguese, but also European and African or Asiatic breeds, have been described in relation with commercial routes between these continents since the first trips by Christopher Columbus.
The local breeds are key factors to differentiate the quality of goat cheeses in relation with the production systems, the territory and use of range lands. The evaluation of the direct or indirect effects of the breed on the characteristics and economic valuation of the products has been discussed mainly for more developed countries. There are presently few studies on the direct relation between the breed and the quality of the products. Several studies on goat meat have also shown that the small size local breeds can have good characteristics for meat quality (suitable carcass conformation and characteristics, high growth efficiency). The discussions have confirmed the different stakes of quality between the developed (quality products, adding value, certification), and developing (control of hygiene, animal health) countries.
The participants have recommended developing works on goats and village animal production, still very scarce and generally poorly known. Ecological, sociological and even ethnological aspects are often more important than technical results on animal production itself. They have clearly confirmed the necessity, in agreement with the FAO recommendation, not to develop exotic breeds and crossing that could affect the balance and coherence of the local production systems. Several speakers have given examples that in many cases, cooperation has been organized more for the benefit or with the opinion of experts from developed countries without taking into account the real needs of the local population.
More than ever the priority is to sensitize the political deciders for a new politics of co-development and preserve these local production systems, to compensate for the effects of general globalization.
As a conclusion, the bridge between developed and developing countries could be perhaps*** this strong relation of the local breeds with the territory, the environment and the local know how and production systems.
At the end of the regional Conference, Dr. Chris Lu, IGA President presented the activity and services of IGA. During the discussion following, the audience has expressed hopes for more practical services of information and for the development.
Titles of the main conferences and communications during the meeting:
* Now competed with more adapted Canarian breeds to systems with more concentrates like the Majorera breed from the arid Fuerteventura island .
** 61 were registered and 31 invited or from the local organisations.
*** Although in the first case the number of heads and breeders keeps decreasing, and in the second one it increases but without any real control.
~ Jean-Paul Dubeuf (IGA Board Members: IGA Vice-President) and Juan Capote (Regional Director – Southern Europe) written October 10, 2006)
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