"Vanmechelen has achieved what scientists have not. This continuous experiment, doing years and years of breeding, would have been impossible to put into practice in a world where scientific grants run from three to five years at the most. Koen wasn’t constrained by those things."
OLIVIER HANOTTE, Livestock Geneticist, ILRI, Professor Population and Conservation Genetics, University of Nottingham, United Kingdom
MOUTH enables field-based research into genetic influences on the health and quality of livestock. It wants to use this to bring long-term nutritional and material benefits to vulnerable communities, and help increase the sustainability of small-scale farming.
As a follow-on to the Cosmopolitan Chicken Project (CCP), MOUTH is partnering with scientists to support research projects aimed at discovering whether the gene flow from the genetically highly diverse CCP chicken to local purebred and commercial flocks can produce healthier, more resilient and efficient birds on a sustainable basis.
Much of the research seeks to understand and optimise the balance that exists between genetic diversity in livestock and short-term and long-term productivity. As the genetic diversity of any stock becomes depleted over successive generations, the CCP can allow for a regular, ongoing injection of fresh genetic diversity, in accordance with a changing environment.
MOUTH wants its findings to provide evidence to support further field research into genetics, migration and gene flow in a range of species.
In Ethiopia, MOUTH is working with the African Chicken Genetics Gains Project (ACGG), a three year collaboration with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), backed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. An ACGG-selected strain is now being crossbred with the Cosmopolitan Chicken to help identify a sustainable, high productivity chicken strain suitable for sub-Saharan Africa. Over 2500 household farms are included in the research, and women are encouraged to take responsibility for raising the chickens. They keep the birds free-range, and benefit from them as a source of food and income.
MOUTH hopes its findings can provide evidence to support further field research into genetics, migration and gene flow in a range of species whose resilience and longevity have been affected by inbreeding.
"This continuous experiment would have been impossible to put into practice in a world where scientific grants run from three to five years at the most.
We can also predict that the CCP chickens will be better fit to respond to a large spectrum of pathogens. Inbreeding is never good when you’re talking about disease resistance. By injecting new diversity and resilience into local chicken stock, we help improve the livelihoods and well-being of vulnerable communities around the world."
OLIVIER HANOTTE, Livestock geneticist and Professor, University of Nottingham, England