Economic valuation of farm animal genetic resources : methods and applications to indigenous cattle in Kenya
There is increasing global concern about the potential long term consequences of loss of domestic animal diversity. International agreements such as the Convention on Biological Diversity encourage the design of policies that convey economic incentives for conservation of genetic resources employed in agriculture. Of particular interest is the situation in developing countries where on one hand, livestock make the greatest contribution to human livelihoods and food security while on the other, genetic erosion has placed many adapted breeds that survive well in low input agriculture and extreme environments, typical of these countries, at risk of loss. An important goal is the development of policies and strategies for conservation and sustainable utilisation of these resources. Economic valuation tools for farm animal genetic resources (AGR) would contribute to this goal by providing information for decision making. It is from this background that this study, with special reference to indigenous cattle in Kenya, focuses on the nature of values associated with AGR and the methodological approaches that can be used to assign value, as a prerequisite to improved understanding of some of the forces that are driving their decline and designing well targeted economic incentives for their conservation and sustainable management. The empirical approach involves a systematic investigation of preferences over cattle traits and breeds in Kenyan livestock markets. Revealed preference (market transactions) and stated preference (choice experiment) surveys were conducted concurrently amongst the same population of respondents. The results of the two approaches are first compared with the aim of assessing the performance of the stated preference approach in valuing cattle traits through an external test of preference consistency. The choice experiment data is subsequently employed to estimate a series of discrete choice models aimed at characterising heterogeneity in valuations across and within various segments of buyers. The study demonstrates the potential usefulness of choice experiments in valuing genetic traits expressed by livestock and provides empirical evidence to suggest that breed preferences are generally not in favour of indigenous cattle in Kenya. The implications for conservation and breeding policies are drawn.