Livestock health and farmers’ livelihoods have been dramatically improved in Sub-Saharan Africa, following the administration of 1.7 billion doses of vaccines and medicines and over 650,000 diagnostic tests through Zoetis’ African Livestock Productivity and Health Advancement (A.L.P.H.A.) initiative, now in its fourth year.
The initiative — founded in 2017 with a $14 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation – is dedicated to improving animal health and livelihoods in the region by increasing access to quality veterinary vaccines, medicines and services, diagnostic laboratory networks, and animal health training.
In four years of activity, the company has made significant progress in establishing the infrastructure and training to improve the state of animal health and productivity. Ten new fully operational serology laboratories have been established across Nigeria, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Uganda; and 13,234 farmers, veterinarians and para-veterinarians have been trained — with an estimated extended reach of 657,800 people through train-the-trainer programs.
The A.L.P.H.A. initiative is helping Zoetis meet its aspirations to grow veterinary care in emerging markets under its new Driven to Care long-term sustainability goals, which build on the company’s purpose to nurture the world by advancing care for animals.
Glenn David, Executive Vice President and Group President at Zoetis, said: “Studies show that when households in a developing region acquire livestock, they report higher income, improved nutrition and better access to financial resources. Animal health is extremely important in contributing to sustainable development goals and economic opportunities in Africa.”
“Over the last four years, we’ve demonstrated that greater access to medicines and technology can help farmers raise healthier animals and secure a more productive and sustainable food supply and income. The progress being made is critical to the economic development of the region and well-being of its people, especially as they face COVID-19 and worsening famine rates,” said David.
Through dedicated regulatory activities, Zoetis submitted 85 veterinary products for registration approval. The company also delivered 35 products – primarily for preventative care — to the markets, in addition to the Zoetis diagnostics portfolio in A.L.P.H.A. countries, which are all crucial components of sustainable development in the animal health sector. Four years ago, there were just four Zoetis products available to farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa to address the health of their herds.
According to Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), 600 million of the world’s poorest households keep livestock as an essential source of income. Approximately 70% of the world’s “extreme poor” depend upon livestock, making animal health solutions necessary for sustainable livestock production1. Reducing mortality and morbidity through better prevention, detection and treatment of animal disease can significantly shrink the footprint of farming in all regions and increase productivity. This means strengthening diseases surveillance, vaccinating animals, and increasing the use of diagnostics and training in responsible antibiotic use for bacterial treatments.
Unique solutions improve animal health and sustainability through cold-chain management
“The A.L.P.H.A. initiative has helped vets enhance their technical knowledge, while also helping farmers improve productivity and make the sector more sustainable. Farmers in the region now embrace better farming practices, improving their profitability, income and quality of life,” said Dr. Ibrahim Ado Shuhu, President of the Nigerian Veterinary Medical Association (NVMA).
One of the key learnings of A.L.P.H.A. in the last four years is the importance of cold chain management for vaccines until the “last mile.” Given most vaccines can get spoiled in cases of temperature fluctuation resulting from frequent power supply issues, A.L.P.H.A. supplied specialized refrigerators to 21 partners through five-year sponsorship agreements (to safeguard equipment use). These Lite Vaccine Refrigerators with remote temperature monitoring devices can work without a power supply, which ensures vaccines are kept within their acceptable temperature ranges independently from power fluctuations.
Dr. Funmi Ojelade, Lab Veterinarian, Chi Lab, Ibadan Nigeria said: “The greatest impact of the A.L.P.H.A. initiative is that it’s reaching out to grassroots poultry farmers providing innovative solutions, education and diagnostics to help them reduce costs and losses on their farms. Animals are healthier, more productive and enable farmers to improve their livelihoods.”
Working towards 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 UNFAO 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 Dr. Gabriel Varga, Regional Director Sub-Saharan Africa at Zoetis and lead of the A.L.P.H.A. initiative.
“Project Shine” Case Study: Advancing Livestock Health Contributes to Stability and Peace to the Fulani Nomadic Tribe in Northern Nigeria
The settlement of the pastoral Fulani nomadic tribe in local communities in Northern Nigeria has been a source of tensions in an unstable region for decades. A.L.P.H.A. partnered with the University of Jos, Nigeria, to establish positive relationships based on improvement of animal health, access to diagnostics and health solutions via mobile vet clinics, and trainings to improve farmers’ livelihoods and income to local communities.
With 15 farms involved in the training, increased surveillance of over 5,000 head of cattle and 30 animal health workers trained, positive impacts have been seen on productivity and income of locally established farms. Donation of goats to families – especially single mothers and widows – was a first step in establishing a regular source of nutrition and income to the poorest population in the region.
“A.L.P.H.A. has brought multiple benefits to the Fulani community, to the veterinary community and to the nation as a whole in facilitating access to animal medicines, vaccines and diagnostic services,” said Dr. Dare Omoniwa, Large Animal Veterinary Teaching Hospital, University of Jos, Nigeria. “Medicalisation of animals had a very big impact. It has been used to good effect to build unity, trust and peace in the region.”
These important learnings highlighting the role that animal health plays for the development of a more sustainable livestock production are critical to carry into the upcoming UN Food Systems Summit and follow-on COP-26.