1a. Objectives (from AD-416):
The ARS Project Plan has the objectives to generate genome-wide information on genetic variation to enable genetic diversity studies in native goats of Africa, facilitate improved germplasm preservation decisions based on this data, and provide information necessary to initiate large scale genetic improvement programs in Africa. The goal is to develop good scientifically based tools for animal improvement programs in Africa and to establish a cooperative network in such a way that the individual country breeding programs can leverage the efforts of one another and provide a nexus to enhance the cooperative efforts of advanced research institutions, such as ARS and the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in East and Central Africa (ASARECA).
1b. Approach (from AD-416):
ARS and the Cooperator will co-organize the second workshop for a focused group of scientific and institutional research program experts that will attempt to review current project status with key collaborators and stakeholders, develop strategies for genetic conservation, discuss methods/partnerships to implement findings into goat value chain improvement, and develop strategies/partnerships for genetic improvement. The overall goal of this workshop will be to develop a mutually agreeable and actionable plan for all the research partners. From this time forward, the Cooperator will also work with ARS in designing experimental plans for sample collection to generate the resource population of goats that will represent locally adapted breeds of importance in Uganda, Malawi, Tanzania, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe. The overall goal of this cooperation is to provide a suitable environment to ensure reliable recording of phenotypes, and facilities, if needed, for temporary storage of samples. The Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in East and Central Africa (ASARECA) locations may also provide training for other collaborative scientists participating in this project as needed. ARS will serve initially as the genome characterization center for the resource population and the goat genome assembly and as a training facility to build genome analyses capacity with ASARECA. Eventually, the results of characterizing the genomes of African goats will lead to the development and application of new breeding strategies to be implemented jointly by ASARECA and ARS scientists with other African partners. These tools will be available to other global partners interested in application of goat genome results.
3. Progress Report:
The second annual workshop for the “African Goat Improvement Network (AGIN)” was hosted by the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA) in Entebbe and Kampala, Uganda. The workshop objectives were to: 1) update research delegations from the participating countries and collaborative institutions as to the current sampling status and genotyping progress, 2) share scientific background on relevant projects and research with impact potential to African goat improvement, 3) open discussion on implementation ideas, project objectives and concerns, future potential, and funding opportunities, 4) take field trips to local farming systems ranging from small-holder women owning one to five goats to large-scale owners having 200 to 500 goats, 5) continue personal interaction between our research group and farmers to determine farmer concerns and hopes for future improvement, and 6) demonstrate the sampling protocol in the field for on-site teaching. The workshop developed action plans on five fronts related to the USAID-funded project and maturation of the AGIN. The African partners are now synchronized with efforts at USDA and other locations outside of Africa relative to research in goat genomics and genetic improvement. The most successful aspect of this project was building trust with the African partners, avoiding duplicative efforts among partners, and getting “buy in” from all attendees to fully participate in the project as equal partners. Goals to complete goat sampling and initiate community-based breeding programs were established.