Community-based breeding programs (CBBPs)

Picture taken by Tesfaye Getachew Mengistu, ICARDA.
Published: 23 February 2021
Last edited: 13 December 2021
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Ten years ago, Community-based breeding programs appeared as a pioneer solution for genetic improvement of sheep and goat in low input systems. They focus on training and building local capacity, leading to sustained genetic improvement of indigenous breeds. The solution has resulted in genetic gain of economically important traits, shown an increase in farmer income by 20% and helped the community triple consumption of animal source food.


East and South Africa
North Africa
North and Central Asia
South America
West and Central Africa
Scale of implementation
Desert ecosystems
Hot desert
Rangeland / Pasture
Food security
Gender mainstreaming
Genetic diversity
Indigenous people
Local actors
Science and research
Sustainable livelihoods
Traditional knowledge
Erratic rainfall
Extreme heat
Increasing temperatures
Inefficient management of financial resources
Lack of alternative income opportunities
Lack of technical capacity
Lack of public and decision maker’s awareness
Poor monitoring and enforcement
Lack of infrastructure
Poor governance and participation
Unemployment / poverty
Sustainable development goals
SDG 1 – No poverty
SDG 2 – Zero hunger
SDG 3 – Good health and well-being
SDG 5 – Gender equality
SDG 17 – Partnerships for the goals
Business engagement approach
Direct engagement with associations
Indirect through government


Ethiopia | Ethiopia, Sudan, Iran, Uganda, Tanzania, Liberia, Malawi, Tunisia and Burkina Faso, and Argentina, Bolivia.


CBBPs came to address the issue of growing global demand for meat, milk and other livestock products and struggling communities to increase the production of animals in Ethiopia, the lack of which is in part due to low productivity per animal and flock offtake. Indeed, Ethiopia has a large and diverse population of small ruminants, which contribute substantially to the livelihood and income of the rural poor. In the past, the government of Ethiopia had placed much emphasis on importing exotic genetics rather than focusing on local ones and crossbreeding with local stock as a strategy for genetic improvement. However, this has not led to a significant productivity improvement and the programmes have generally been unsustainable. CBBPS therefore address challenges related to SDG1 and SDG2 by their inclusion of indigenous breeds and their impressive results in measurable genetic gains and socioeconomic impact.


Small ruminant farmers in low-input systems and small ruminant value chain actors.

How do the building blocks interact?

In practice, the link between training and developing local capacity and implementation of business development is permitted when CBBP’s combine the selection of breeding rams and bucks based on a careful recording of important production parameters, such as body weight at a specific age and birthing intervals, with an expert local opinion on what constitutes a good ram or buck within real-world settings, followed by its communal use for improved breeding. Farmers who participate provide their local knowledge and are organized into sheep and goat breeding associations, many of which evolve into formal cooperatives independent of ICARDA’s support.


  • High reach: More than 5000 Households in 40 villages have been directly involved and benefited from the programs.  Farmers have also created 35 formal breeders’ cooperatives, which have been able to build capital from investments.
  • Increased productivity: CBBPs increases the productivity and profitability of indigenous breeds without undermining their resilience and genetic integrity, and without expensive interventions. Benefits of CBBPs include lamb growth rate, lambing interval, and reduced mortality.
  • High market price: Higher market price compared to sheep and goats from non-members.
  • Business development: Sheep and goat farming in CBBP’s zones are a top business activity and the linchpin of many farmers’ livelihoods. In 2019, 44 youth groups with a total of 485 members (41 percent female) were trained in sheep husbandry, ration balancing and formulation, entrepreneurship and marketing.
  • Social inclusion: Contribution to social inclusion through training of  50 masters and 15 PhD students, who now advocate for the program within their universities and organisations.


"The cooperative structure will serve the community well into the future. Bonga has a very well-organized and vibrant cooperative that thinks out of the box. They have overseen a transformation from subsistence farming to a market-oriented sheep production system. They are becoming a self-sustaining private sector.” Alemayehu Haile

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