According to Assistant Agriculture Development and Food Security Minister Kostantinos Markus, outbreaks of diseases such as anthrax and foot and mouth disease as well as the debilitating effects of climate change are threatening to negate the benefits from advances in animal genetics.
Speaking on the sidelines of an event where the African Union Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR) donated state-of-the -art laboratory equipment to Botswana, Markus said as a result of diseases, climate change and global warming “some useful ecotypes, strains and breads are gradually being lost.”
“These lost breeds or strains represent important genes which may be needed in the future to address global challenges such as diseases and climate change,” said Markus.
Botswana currently is home to 1.7 million cattle, 1.2 million goats, 242,000 sheep, 178 donkeys, 760,000 horses, 4,000 pigs and about 1,000 camels.
The junior minister gave the example of indigenous Tswana pigs whose numbers have drastically dropped to below 1,000 as a classic example in the country.
Such numbers, he said, compels the government to make necessary changes or measures.
He said the loss of genetic diversity within the livestock production systems attributed to, among others, uncontrolled cross-breeding, neglect, wars and livestock diseases has necessitated global efforts to address the problem.
As result, the laboratory equipment donated by AU-IBAR on Thursday is expected to assist Botswana and the southern African region conserve animal genetic resources.
Botswana launched the Farm Animal Genetic resources centre in 2000 with the aim of conserving animal genetic resources.
Markus expressed commitment to conserving and improving animal and plant genetic materials in the country, through the utilization of the gene bank.
Southern African Development Community (SADC) official, Gaolathe Tlhobokwe stated that although based in Botswana, the centre would benefit the region which is currently ravaged by climate change.
“This year alone we had two cyclones so far and our region has been hit hard by drought,” he said.
World Organisation for Animal Health representative in Botswana, Moetapele Loeto noted that indigenous breeds are more tolerant to the local environment and can withstand environmental challenges and therefore their unique genetic material need to be conserved.
AU-IBAR representative Edward Nengomashe urged the Botswana government to ensure that a variety of species are conserved in the gene bank as some continue to be threatened by extinction.