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Chapter 13 Animal Science and the Representation of Local Breeds Looking into the Sources of Current Characterization of Bororo Zebu Saverio Krätli Growing international attention to the value of domestic animal biodiversity (DAD) has placed a strong emphasis on locally adapted breeds, particularly in developing countries.1 The initiatives for cataloging DAD and prioritizing interventions for conservation have substantially relied on breed characterization—from the early Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) inventories to the currently online DAD-IS database.2 In fact, breed characterization not only informs the management of farm-animal genetic resources, but it is also deeply entrenched in rural-development policies and project design for the livestock sector. As characterizations define the productive value of local breeds, they also define the economic relevance of their producers. But what processes lead to the construction of scientific knowledge about locally adapted breeds? This chapter embarks on a historical investigation of the sources of animal-science knowledge on the Bororo breed. It does so within the horizon of “practice”approaches in (1) political ecology—resources are defined by use patterns within networks of power;3 and (2) sociological studies of Animal Science and the Representation of Local Breeds |  science—knowledge is necessarily partial and located: mobilized in practices of social control, filtered by individual agency and technology, and constructed as universal through political strategies, by enrolling of actors and institutions in ever-wider knowledge networks.4 With particular reference to Niger and the francophone tradition,the chapter looks at the scientific facts packed into the current characterizations of the Bororo breed, asking which actor-network produced them and through which processes. The Bororo zebu kept by the WoDaaBe pastoralists is an emblematic example of a locally adapted breed in a low-input livestock system. Its extreme and unpredictable production environment and the specialization of its breeders are a guarantee of high biodiversity value.5 Over the last forty years, the studies that have paid some attention to the Bororo have suggested that the scientific information on the breed need revising.6 New findings departing from the received wisdom have never been incorporated into formal descriptions. The surprisingly persistent lack of reliable data on a breed with a population of several million across many countries has been repeatedly pointed out to no effect.7 In Niger, extraordinary attention has been given to another local zebu, the Azawak. Initially bred only by a few Tuareg groups, the Azawak breed was increasingly taken over by expanding forces within the livestock sector—farmers and absentee owners —particularly following the major crisis of 1984.8 Today, Niger’s pastoraldevelopment policy has the picture of an Azawak bull on the cover and is substantially geared toward this breed. The Bororo is mentioned once in the initial list of cattle breeds in the country and never again.9 Yet, the Bororo represents a large proportion of the cattle population in the country and the breed most in demand on the export market.10 The marginal position of the Bororo within the development arena is explained by specialists and administrators on scientific bases: lowest rank in milk production, meat quality, and fertility rate; poor dressing percentage ; a semi-wild nature that makes the breed difficult to handle and useless for work. Reference is often made to “several studies” that would have “proved beyond doubt” the inferior performance of the Bororo and, consequently, its negligible economic value. None of the specialists and administrators I interviewed, however, was able to identify such studies with any precision. How were these studies carried out, under which conditions, and how robust are their findings? Received Wisdom The problem of identifying primary sources of data exists above all for the Bororo, as the official data on Azawak consistently refer to the herds  | Saverio Krätli selected since 1933 at the research station of Filingué/Toukounous.11 Since the first study by Jean Pagot, the Azawak has been the topic of dissertations for generations of students from Niger (in graduate courses in veterinary medicine and agronomy and at the École des Cadres de l’Élevage, the technical school of the livestock service outside Niamey).12 These works are usually presentations of a station-based measurement exercise, interpreted in light of previous data and framed in a general description of pastoral systems and cattle breeds in Niger. They usually include a description of the Bororo. As students become consultants and/or take up managerial posts with the government or with international...


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