John Vercoe Conference

November 05, 2007

The recent steep hikes in prices for livestock foods as well as staple crops and grains could cause millions more people to go hungry--or they could boost incomes around the globe. One unlikely determining factor is a relatively small group of scientists working on ways the world's small-scale farmers can enhance the breeding potential of their farm animals.

As being reported in mass media, global grain stockpiles are being drawn down to their tightest levels in three decades. In just the last 12 months, the world market price for milk has more than doubled from some USD28 per 100kg to over USD60. What is behind these rising prices are structural changes that indicate that the high prices are here to stay. The worry for people in the North is that they are having to pay more for their food. The worry for two billion people in the South, 850 million of whom are already hungry as well as poor, is that they can't afford to buy staple foods.

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) is convening a meeting in Nairobi 8-9 November 2007 to address how the rising prices for livestock foods can help rather than hurt the world's poor.

WHO: Carlos Seré, Director General, International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)
Hon. Noah Wekesa, Minister of Science and Technology, Kenya

WHAT: John Vercoe Conference: 'Animal breeding for poverty alleviation: Harnessing science for greater impact'

WHEN: 8 November 2007
8:15-9:00 AM: Registration
9:00-10:30 AM: Keynote Speeches
10:30-11:00 AM: Press conference with expert panel

WHERE: John Vercoe Conference Hall, International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)
Old Naivasha Road, near Uthiru, Nairobi, Kenya

The participating experts in animal science, including leading breeders from Africa, Asia and Latin America, will pull together the latest scientific thinking in a range of fields to formulate a new framework for improving smallholder breeding.

Amidst the on-going livestock revolution, breeding could become a major factor encouraging livestock pathways out of poverty. While genetic change has been a key driver of livestock development in the North for some 200 years, breeding promises even greater returns in the South today. That's because whereas farmers in the North have been able to adapt the environment to suit their animals, few farmers in the South can afford to do the same, and so they are forced to adapt their animals to suit the environment.

With better and more appropriate breeds and species of farm animals, many of the 600-million-plus livestock keepers in poor countries will be able to produce more milk, more meat and more eggs for the fast-proliferating global livestock markets, thus pulling themselves and their families out of poverty.

Better breed management for smallholders further promises to lessen livestock's environmental footprint. Unlike farmers in the North, who feed their cattle and other ruminant animals largely on grain, similar stock keepers in the South have always relied on local feeds such as the stalks and other crop residues, roadside vegetation and communal grasslands. The scientific discussions in Nairobi will include ways in which smallholders can exploit these renewable resources more fully to support their increased livestock production.
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About John Vercoe

Australian animal scientist John Vercoe was a member of the ILRI Board of Trustees for six years, from 1998 to 2004, serving as chairman for the last four years. Vercoe's scientific career furthered understanding of the ways in which cattle breeding could exploit the interactions of genes and environmental conditions, allowing the animal to respond to the often harsh conditions of tropical environments in Australia and developing countries. ILRI is building on Vercoe's work by investigating animal traits such as heat and disease tolerance needed and desired by the developing world's small-scale livestock keepers. www.ilri.org/johnvercoeconference

About ILRI

The Nairobi-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) works at the crossroads of livestock and poverty. ILRI employs high-quality livestock-related science, partnerships and capacity building to reduce poverty and sustain development. ILRI works in Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean, with offices in eastern, western and southern Africa; South and Southeast Asia; China; and Central America. www.ilri.org

For more information, please contact:

Grace Ndungu: +254 722 890 551, g.ndungu@cgiar.org or

Jeff Haskins: +1 301 652 1558, ext. 205, jhaskins@burnesscommunications.com

For details of the John Vercoe Conference and for press registration, please visit: www.ilri.org/johnvercoeconference/

Burness

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