ROME – An initial donation of $1,000,000 has been contributed by Germany, Norway and Switzerland to a new Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)-managed fund designed to help developing countries conserve and sustainably use their livestock breeds. The fund will provide financing for individual projects submitted by countries in support of the internationally-agreed Global Plan of Action for Animal Genetic Resources.

Adopted by all FAO member countries in 2007, the plan has become a key instrument for the conservation and sustainable use of animal genetic resources at global, regional and national level.

Any developing country may request projects for financing by the fund, which is due to become operational in September. "The money will be disbursed on the basis of letters of agreement between applicant countries and FAO, following an innovative, transparent and impartial selection process led by FAO's Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture," said Linda Collette, the Secretary of the Commission.

Twenty-one percent of the world's more than 8,000 livestock breeds are classified as at risk of extinction. But since the Global Plan of Action went into force, countries' reporting on breeds' population status is improving and points to a slowing of the reported rate of extinction.

"The adoption of the Global Plan of Action for Animal Genetic Resources, the first internationally agreed framework for the management of livestock diversity, was a major achievement – a milestone for the livestock sector and for the management of agricultural biodiversity," said Irene Hoffmann, chief of FAO's Animal Genetic Resources Branch. "Since 2007, it has become a key instrument for the conservation and sustainable use of animal genetic resources at global, regional and national levels and created important momentum in many countries."

The Global Plan of Action has been translated into nine languages serving around 20 countries and it is currently being translated into another 12 languages. This will increase awareness of sustainable management of animal genetic resources among stakeholders, FAO relayed.

Countries are taking important steps in its implementation, although at different speeds and with different priorities. While developing countries aim to strengthen linkages between genetic diversity, livelihoods and food security, several developed countries highlight the links between genetic diversity and landscapes and focus their activities on development, labeling and marketing of high-value products.

AT present, several countries are revising their livestock or breeding policies and strategies. So far 16 countries have endorsed national strategies for improved animal genetic resources management, and according to informal surveys, 22 more national strategies are in process of development and 15 more are planned. Regional organizations, for example AU-IBAR in Africa, have included use and conservation of genetic resources in their newly developed strategic plans. Such concerted efforts are already getting results.