As Europe's urban population continues to grow and rural
residents gradually migrate to cities, EU policy makers remain
dedicated to ensuring that traditional agricultural systems
remain intact. In an effort to better understand best practice
strategies for citizens living in marginal rural areas, the
EU funded the ECONOGENE project. ECONOGENE utilised the combined
molecular analysis of biodiversity, socio-economics and geostatistics,
so as to address the conservation of sheep and goat genetic
resources, and also to preserve rural development in marginal
agrosystems in Europe.
Using a coordinated approach, the ECONOGENE project defined strategies for genetic management and rural development. It significantly expanded the knowledge base of sheep and goat genetic diversity, studied success rates for many previously unstudied local breeds, and identified gene pools critical to establishing viable conservation priorities.
EU-funded project aimed at preserving culturally
and economically valuable sheep and goat breeds.
Through extensive observation, in situ testing and
interviews conducted with local farmers, the ECONOGENE partners
were able to introduce a map of development perspectives; this
identified areas where sustainable conservation of both economically
and ecologically valuable populations was most likely to succeed.
Once the conservation and development priority maps were drafted,
ECONOGENE participants compared them with the value of such
biodiversity, thus providing information useful to policy makers
in justifying economic interventions. The research consortium
also used the information gathered through the genetic conservation
plan, to draw up appropriate guidelines and actions for Member
Once the hard data were collected (researchers collected a total of 3401 animals from 885 sampling sites across Europe, the Middle East and Egypt), the project consortium undertook a critical analysis of Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) measures. This had the goal of providing a description of economic and social issues related to actual and potential socio-economic development of rural areas.
To communicate their results, the consortium produced a handbook, reviewing and designing methods that can serve to guide conservation policies for livestock breeds threatened by extinction.
The project was part of the Quality of Life theme in the EU's
Fifth Research Framework Programme, which incorporates Key Actions
aiming to enhance European citizens' quality of life,
and also to improve the competitiveness of European industry.
The project included participants from a total of nine EU countries.