The African Livestock Productivity and Health Advancement (A.L.P.H.A.) initiative continues to advance livestock health in sub-Saharan Africa during its second year. Read on to learn about recent milestones from the initiative, which is funded by a $14.4 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and uses Zoetis business operations, animal health expertise and additional resources to improve animal health and positively impact farmers’ livelihoods in the region.
Local Partnerships for Better Diagnostics in Nigeria and Uganda
With a focus on bringing veterinary services, diagnostics and medicines closer to Nigeria’s farmers, this summer the A.L.P.H.A. initiative helped open a new veterinary diagnostic center with one of the leading poultry producers in the country, CHI Farms. The new lab will offer a range of innovative, quality animal care services: scientific research programs, genetics tests, biodevices, diagnostic products, medicines and vaccines.
Zoetis will provide technical expertise, education and training materials, which will help address one of the biggest challenges facing Nigerian poultry farmers: lack of knowledge about poultry health management. A customer-focused team will teach farmers and veterinarians when and how to vaccinate an animal, how to properly diagnose a disease, treat sickness and restore productivity on the farm.
Joshua Olorungbemi, Country Lead, A.L.P.H.A., highlighted the focus of the project to create value for Nigeria’s farmers: “We are committed to enabling farmers in Nigeria to have access to veterinary diagnostic services. Our goal is to ensure farmers’ investments are secure and sustainable.”
In Uganda, a similar partnership was also initiated with the Uganda Meat Producers Cooperative Union Limited (UMPCU) to deliver sustainable animal health diagnostic services, education, and training to the country’s cattle veterinarians and farmers. Zoetis will partner with UMPCU to support the laboratory equipment setup in two livestock resource centers; one will be located in the Butalangu-Nakaseke district, the other in the Nabitanga-Sembabule district. As in Nigeria, Zoetis will also provide expertise and deliver veterinary diagnostic training, educational material for farmers, and digital tools.
“We were looking for partners with an excellent network in animal health and strong geographical coverage to act as a strong point of contact for farmers and vets,” said Gabriel Varga, Regional Director, Africa, and leader of the A.L.P.H.A. initiative. “Having a partner like UMPCU with experience along the food production value chain – from the farm to the fork – is very important in proving the positive impact these diagnostic solutions and training opportunities can help deliver.”
Training Veterinarians and Farmers to Better Care for Animals
Important trainings that will lead to improved animal care are also underway. In line with the initiative’s objectives, the A.L.P.H.A. team has taken a “train the trainer” approach, with the aim that each farmer or veterinarian who participates will cascade their learnings to additional people in the community.
In one training Zoetis A.L.P.H.A. partnered with a Belgian poultry importer to Uganda to help their existing customers improve profitability by introducing quality vaccines, treatments and diagnostics to their operations. Dr. Pius Atedu, the A.L.P.H.A. poultry veterinarian, was trained in Belgium for three months and is now visiting poultry farmers across Uganda to share his learnings. He is teaching farmers to diagnose disease through autopsy, offering biosecurity advice, and providing technical assistance to field teams in the region.
Another training that took the same approach was aimed at diagnostic managers, laboratory technicians, and biomedical engineers to increase their understanding of equipment calibration, qualification, and maintenance to improve the quality of results. Francis Kalule, the A.L.P.H.A diagnostics manager, who was trained will share his learnings with the other technicians who are working at the two UMPCU facilities that Zoetis recently entered into partnership with.
“This training is extremely important for the A.L.P.H.A. technicians. It will help them realize the full benefits of proper equipment management, calibration protocols, troubleshooting procedures, and the importance of equipment maintenance to reduce failure and downtime,” he said.
Responding to Emerging Disease in Nigeria
The A.L.P.H.A. initiative was also one of the first responders during a recent outbreak of Contagious Bovine Pleuropneumonia (CBPP) in the Nigerian state of Kogi. Working alongside representatives from the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Nigerian Veterinary Medical Association (NVMA), and the Kogi State government, A.L.P.H.A.’s Dr. Adah Ogwuche, Field Veterinarian, Ruminants, volunteered to take part in the vaccination outreach program that administered 100,000 vaccines to around 20,000 farms across the state. A.L.P.H.A. also further supported the cattle farmers with training programs to help them identify CBPP symptoms quickly, report emerging diseases, and understand the importance of vaccination.
These milestones have had a powerful impact on the region, and there is still work to be done as A.L.P.H.A. continues. “We have made good progress and have also learned a lot. We are applying our learnings to achieve pioneering results in our first project year. Looking ahead, we are taking steps to ensure we can continue to build the infrastructure needed to help veterinarians and farmers to improve the health and productivity of their livestock and livelihoods,” added Gabriel.