Establishing genetic characterization and breeding capability for livestock in Burkina Faso.

Challenge

Burkina Faso is a West African country with 17.3 million people, where the majority of people live in rural areas and rely on agriculture, mainly livestock rearing. Livestock contributes about 18.3 percent of national GDP and the sector is almost totally in the hands of resource-poor pastoralists and smallholder farmers.

The livestock population in the country is made up of 10 million heads of cattle, 12 million heads of goat, 9 million heads of sheep and more than 40 million poultry including Guinea fowl. Livestock in Burkina Faso plays a major role in the rural livelihood and also assumes major cultural and social importance. Despite this importance, information on animal genetic resources in Burkina Faso is scarce and mostly limited to description of morphological characteristics.

A few years ago, the country made genetic characterization of livestock a high priority for research and development; however, molecular genetic techniques and laboratory facilities were poorly developed and there was a lack of well-trained human resources. These shortcomings did not allow establishment of suitable breeding programmes for genetic improvement of livestock in Burkina Faso.

To assist the country in this regard, the Joint FAO/IAEA Division and IAEA Technical Cooperation Department supported capacity building and transfer of nuclear and nuclear derived molecular technologies for characterization and improvement of indigenous livestock breeds

Capacity building and technical support from IAEA

The Institut de l'Environnement et de Recherches Agricoles (INERA) in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso has been technically supported in the fields of animal nutrition, reproduction and breeding for more than 10 years by the IAEA. The TC project BKF5008 initiated in 2007, provided the first steps in the development of animal genetic laboratory at the Centre de recherches environnementales et de formation (INERA-CREAF). The so-called “genetic laboratory” in the early stage consisted of a small table in a shared room with other laboratories where blood and tissue samples were processed for DNA extraction. Basic equipment was initially provided and later, through TC BKF5008, TC BKF5011 and BKF 5021, the Joint FAO/IAEA Division provided additional equipment and much required scientific training.

Through these projects, a PhD student was trained in animal genetics at Servicio Regional de Investigación y Desarrollo Agroalimentario (SERIDA) in Spain, and INERA´s professionals and technical staff were trained at IAEA Seibersdorf’s laboratories on DNA extraction, PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) amplification of DNA markers, genotyping using automated DNA sequencers, extraction of genotypic data using various computer applications and data analysis using open source software.

During this initiative, hundreds of DNA samples were analyzed from various sheep and goat breeds, including those from Sahelian and Djallonke breeds, to assist farmers in their fight against trypanosomosis and gastro-intestinal parasites. Genotypic data were matched with performance data resulting in a set of characteristics that were associated with resistance to these diseases. By this means, farmers can now identify and select suitable animals for breeding while reducing the risk of trypanosomosis and parasitic diseases.

Besides, several cattle breeds of Burkina Faso have been genetically characterized in the new laboratory and other popluations, including horses and poultry are being analyzed. This is expected to facilitate the understanding of the genetic value of these populations and in the near future, together with productive and reproductive data, breeding programmes can be initiated/strengthened by selecting animals carrying genes of economically important traits. INERA and its local partners are currently implementing a new TC Project BKF 5021, titled “Improving Local Poultry Production Through Incorporation of Nutraceuticals in Feeds and Genetic Characterization”. The outcomes of this project are expected to facilitate boosting livestock and poultry productivity, farmers’ livelihoods and food security in the country.

Outcome

The government support and INERA’s commitment for the establishment of a molecular genetic laboratory with the technical support of the IAEA has resulted in a well-equiped laboratory.

From a single room where basic research work was done on animal health, reproduction, nutrition and breeding, INERA has now built a separate unit for molecular genetic work with a complete workflow for animal breed genotyping operated by a group of qualified staff.

The Unit is composed of a DNA extraction area, conventional and real time PCR facility, post PCR laboraotry, a Sanger sequencing cum genotyping facility, bioinformatics laboratory and a meeting room.

Impact

The facilities of the molecular genetic laboratory and the expertise of the staff has attracted the attention of neighbouring West African countries which are sending their samples for analysis and requesting training on DNA technology. Currently, three PhD students (two from Niger and one from Burkina Faso) are being trained in the lab together with four MSc students. In 2016, the laboratory successfully hosted a regional training course on “Genotyping workflow and analysis of molecular genetic data for characterization of native cattle breeds” with participants coming from Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso. In addition, as a result of the work done, several scientific papers have been published in peer reviewed international journals and in international scientific meetings. The animal genetics laboratory at Ouagadougou has the potential to become a regional hub for characterization and improvement of livestock in West Africa.