In its third year, Zoetis’ African Livestock Productivity and Health Advancement (A.L.P.H.A.) initiative, co-funded with a $14 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, continues to improve livestock health and positively impact farmers’ livelihoods by increasing access to quality veterinary medicines and services, diagnostic laboratory networks, and animal health training in sub-Saharan Africa.
“Animal health is extremely important in contributing to sustainable development goals and economic opportunities in Africa,” said Rob Kelly, President International Operations at Zoetis. “Access to medicines and technology will help farmers raise healthier animals and secure a more productive and sustainable food supply and income, which is critical to the economic development of the region and well-being of its people.”
As one of the most rapidly developing regions in the world, sub-Saharan Africa is also home to some of the largest livestock populations in the world – and the highest density of livestock keepers with the lowest productivity per animal. With the COVID-19 pandemic, healthy livestock are more essential than ever to rural smallholder communities because of the role they play in achieving food security. This is especially true in areas of high animal and human disease incidence.
Hundreds of millions of doses of animal health products distributed and diagnostic services more widely available to farmers
One of the initiative’s focal areas is to increase access to an expanded range of high-quality livestock medicines and disease solutions. Through dedicated regulatory activities, there are now 65 new veterinary products commercially available in addition to the Zoetis diagnostics portfolio in A.L.P.H.A. countries, which is a crucial component of sustainable development in the animal health sector. Hundreds of millions of doses of animal health products have been distributed in A.L.P.H.A. countries since the start of the initiative allowing access to quality medicines and increased productivity of smallholder farms.
Presently, the A.L.P.H.A. initiative has developed and upgraded facilities of nine diagnostic laboratories across Ethiopia, Nigeria, Uganda and Tanzania in collaboration with strategic private and public partners. These labs are fully operational and are serving local farming communities to diagnose the most common diseases of poultry and cattle; ensuring correct and responsible use of veterinary products (which helps to reduce drug resistance); mitigating losses from incorrect disease treatment, and ultimately safeguarding effective outcomes for farmers and their livestock. When selecting local partners, one criterion is their ability to offer diagnostic services in a sustainable manner, without future dependency on grant funding. A further six laboratories are undergoing set-up to commence diagnostic service provision in 2020.
Continuing training through virtual channels and ensuring inclusion of women
In collaboration with the University of Surrey (UK), the initiative conducted studies to identify training needs of veterinary professionals in Ethiopia and Uganda to address training gaps through customized solutions. By providing training on animal nutrition, disease detection and other animal health issues, the A.L.P.H.A. initiative continued to support training of local stakeholders through a Train-the-Trainer approach, which resulted in estimated reach of almost 400,000 people trained to date. In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, A.L.P.H.A. trainers adapted traditional training to online versions and webinars. “Online training in sub-Saharan Africa are very successful. Our customers generally have smartphones with access to digital platforms, which allows them to maintain learning continuity. We recently participated in an Instagram live broadcast on the responsible use of antibiotics, an initiative very welcomed by our network, including young professionals,” said Dr. Adah Ogwuche, Field Veterinarian (A.L.P.H.A. Nigeria).
As women play a very important role in the region’s smallholder farms, A.L.P.H.A. works to ensure gender balance and inclusion of women in all trainings to transform the livestock sector for wider societal impact. Whilst currently achieving around a 40% participation rate of women, Zoetis is committed to aiming for equal gender participation in our educational programs.
Foundation for enhanced veterinary protocols through “LabCards” and pooled vaccinators program to establish sustainable practices
A new digital app and diagnostic portal called “LabCards” was recently launched in A.L.P.H.A. countries to ensure detailed tracking in the field and timely feedback of diagnostic results. The app facilitates sample data collection, results processing, and communication back to the attending veterinarian or para-veterinarian. “In rural Africa, paperwork can be cumbersome and testing feedback is slow. With LabCards, when a lab test is performed the results are immediately shared with veterinarians, who can quickly prescribe relevant treatments and follow-up on the progress with the farmer. This tool, which we describe as “animal health in your pocket” brings value for farmers and veterinarians as it helps to improve health management of the farm,” said Francis Kalule, Diagnostics Manager (A.L.P.H.A. Uganda).
To help extend vaccination which prevents disease and increases the overall health of animals, the A.L.P.H.A. team launched a pilot in Tanzania where vet paraprofessionals help manage vaccine education, storage and administration for farmers in communities. This new entrepreneurial program helps not only enhance biosecurity measures on farms in facilitating access to quality medicines and technical experience, and it also supports employment of young people. More than 100 farms in Tanzania have benefitted so far, and the model will be rolled out to other countries in 2020.
“LabCards” and the pooled vaccinator program support the key pillars of the A.L.P.H.A. initiative: Veterinary Medicines & Services, Diagnostic Networks, and Training & Education. These fundamentals will make a positive difference for smallholder farmers in Uganda, Nigeria, Ethiopia and Tanzania. “Unique in our approach is the sustainability angle which is essential to encourage a mindset shift in the livestock sector towards entrepreneurialism and ownership. Empowerment of the farming and veterinary sectors is critical to enable sub-Saharan Africa to meet the rising productivity needs of the region in a sustainable manner,” concluded Dr. Gabriel Varga, Regional Director Sub-Saharan Africa at Zoetis and lead of the A.L.P.H.A. initiative.