Zoetis reported on progress during the five years of its African Livestock Productivity and Health Advancement (A.L.P.H.A.) initiative to establish sustainable veterinary care including access to vaccines, medicines and diagnostic services in Uganda, Nigeria, Tanzania and Ethiopia. The initiative, co-funded with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, concludes its five years of progress by improving livestock health, productivity and farmers’ livelihoods in Sub-Saharan Africa.
“The A.L.P.H.A. initiative has helped veterinarians enhance their technical knowledge, while supporting farmers improve productivity and make the sector more sustainable. Farmers in the region now embrace better farming practices and are improving their profitability, income and quality of life,” said Olutoyin Catherine Adetuberu, DVM, president of the Nigerian Veterinary Medical Association (NVMA), who presented her experience on the impacts of the initiative in Nigeria at the anniversary event in Brussels.
Foundation for enhanced veterinary care
“Animal health is extremely important in contributing to sustainable economic development goals and business opportunities in Africa,” said Glenn David, executive vice president and group president at Zoetis. “Farming and animal agriculture are major forms of livelihood for people in Sub-Saharan Africa. By improving access to critical veterinary products and services, and supporting an infrastructure for quality animal healthcare, we can make a positive long-term impact.”
“We have seen first-hand the impacts of improving animal health in Sub-Saharan Africa and partnering with local institutions to develop veterinary education and sustainable livestock productivity solutions,” said Mike McFarland, DVM and chief medical officer at Zoetis. “Looking ahead, we are taking steps to ensure we can continue to support veterinary education and training, and build the infrastructure needed to help veterinarians and farmers continue to improve the health and productivity of their livestock and livelihoods.”
Sustainable development achievements in five years
The A.L.P.H.A. initiative is helping Zoetis meet its aspirations to grow veterinary care in emerging markets under its Driven to Care long-term sustainability goals, which build on the company’s purpose to nurture the world by advancing care for animals.
By focusing its innovation expertise and partnerships on solving sustainability challenges facing animals and people, Zoetis is committed to helping achieve the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Through its A.L.P.H.A. initiative, the company has dramatically improved livestock health and farmers’ livelihoods in Sub-Saharan Africa in three major areas:
Increased availability of veterinary medicine and medicalization rate
With 91 new veterinary products commercially available (including vaccines, parasitic treatments and medicines), Zoetis has allowed 128 million animals to receive quality veterinary care (124M chickens, 4M cows) ensuring healthier animals and producing safe food. In 2017, at the beginning of the program, only four products were commercially available in the region.
The prevention of disease in poultry has been a key focus for the A.L.P.H.A. initiative. Zoetis has provided access to a broad portfolio of poultry vaccines, which it hopes will help to prevent disease and reduce treatment, including the use of antibiotics in poultry farming.
Sustainable diagnostic infrastructure provision
In five years of activity, the company has made significant progress in establishing infrastructure and training to improve the state of animal health and productivity. Sixteen established serology laboratories provide diagnostic services to farmers across Nigeria, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Uganda. The laboratory network has been upgraded in cooperation with public and private local partners, and today it provides access across an important part of Zoetis’ continuum of care (diagnostics, prevention and treatment) even for smaller scale producers close to their homes in four countries.
Professional development and business training courses to veterinary stakeholders
Since 2019, Zoetis experts have held a significant number of training sessions for local veterinary service providers, diagnostic labs’ personnel and farmers in partnership with local authorities, associations and NGOs to increase the level of care and knowledge of disease management and veterinary care. To-date more than 26,000 farmers, veterinarians and veterinarian paraprofessionals (VPP) have been trained–of which around 30% are women–with an estimated extended reach of over 1.3M people through train-the-trainer programs.
Key learnings, barriers to animal health and advancing solutions
The A.L.P.H.A. initiative has uncovered a significant need for access to training and education on the use of veterinary products and services, and an overall understanding of the benefits of advanced animal care on a farm’s productivity.
The initiative’s leaders identified a need to focus on when and how to vaccinate an animal; properly diagnose a disease with the help of veterinarians and other professionals; and how to treat sickness and restore productivity of livestock and improve health management on a farm.
“We learned that initiating a vaccination program for animals will not help if the minimum of biosecurity conditions are not respected on farm. We have therefore organized education and training sessions with smallholder farmers around biosecurity and disease prevention, the responsible use of medicines, and veterinary diagnosis,” added Gabriel Varga, DVM, regional director Sub-Saharan Africa at Zoetis.
Sub-Saharan Africa is home to some of the largest livestock populations in the world–and the highest density of impoverished livestock farmers.1 Livestock are essential assets to rural communities: improving animal health, and the productivity of small holder farmers, are critical to achieving food security, in areas of exceptionally high animal and human disease incidence.
“We look to the future with optimism and an immense number of learnings and experience which will help us to better serve our animal health stakeholders in Sub-Saharan Africa,” added Varga. “There is however still a long way to go with our work in these emerging markets, and we have identified several strategies we could implement with key local partners. To quote an African proverb: ‘If you want to go fast–go alone; if you want to go far, go together’. This reflects how we strongly value collaborative approaches to help serve the region.”
Working toward UN Food Systems Solutions
Promoting a rapid uptake of existing, scalable best practices and tools in animal health and husbandry is one of the solutions promoted by the Food And Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) that could reduce the emissions footprint of livestock farming by 30%. The impact of A.L.P.H.A., and more generally of community development through livestock productivity, supports better livestock health for more nature-positive protein production that measurably improves natural resource use efficiency, limits the need for new farmland, and supports a growing population.
“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,” said Varga.