The University of Liverpool in the United Kingdom has been awarded £700,000 to reduce the burden of poultry diseases in Ethiopia through improved breeding. The study, funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council UK, the UK Department for International Development and the Scottish government, is part of a £13 million project to tackle the growing threat of livestock diseases to global food security, particularly in developing countries.

Dr. Rob Christley, head of epidemiology and public health and co-director of the National Centre for Zoonosis Research at the University of Liverpool, said: “In Ethiopia, indigenous chicken varieties are well-adapted to local environments but tend to grow slowly and produce fewer and smaller eggs compared to commercial stocks. Infectious diseases have a major impact and prevent this even limited genetic potential from being realized.”

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He added, “Enhanced genetic resistance through selective breeding represents an under-exploited, low-cost opportunity for disease control in low-input poultry production systems. We aim to develop a poultry breeding program that enhances productivity, while improving resistance to diseases [that pose] the greatest threat to village poultry.”

Knowledge from this study will enable more precise disease control planning by Ethiopian policy makers and animal health professionals. The study will also strengthen Ethiopia’s veterinary research sector by training of local scientists and enhancing laboratory facilities for poultry testing. The University of Liverpool is collaborating with the Ethiopian Institute for Agricultural Research and other partners to carry out the study.