Expanding Sustainable Agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa, Co-Funded by Zoetis and Gates Foundation

(Photo: Female farmer milks cow. Credit: Zoetis.)

(Photo: Female farmer milks cow. Credit: Zoetis.)

by | Mar 7, 2023

Bolstered by a renewed grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Zoetis will expand its African Livestock Productivity and Health Advancement (A.L.P.H.A.) initiative to improve livestock health and productivity in sub-Saharan Africa. The original ALPHA initiative began in 2017 in Uganda and Nigeria, and its success was followed by expansion into Ethiopia in 2018 and Tanzania in 2019. This $15.3 million grant from the Gates Foundation supports a five-year plan, reaching seven new countries and including aquaculture alongside their already-tested cattle, poultry, and swine programs.

Building on prior success, the ALPHA Plus initiative seeks to train 100,000 stakeholders by 2025 in skills that will increase animal health and farmers’ livelihoods. Notably, the training is intentional about gender diversity and will provide women-led, female-only training courses with flexible schedules to accommodate the other responsibilities of women in that region.

Female farmers in sub-Saharan Africa typically experience lower rates of productivity than their male counterparts, according to a 2019 policy brief by the UN. This research also proves that the gender gap in productivity is primarily due to inequitable access to agricultural inputs, including family labor, high-yield crops, pesticides, and fertilizer. Yet women are essential providers for their families, both in subsistence farming and cash crops. 60% of employed women in the region work as farmers, according to a Landesa report.

Zoetis backs up this commitment to women with equity within its corporate roles as well. For at least two years running, the company landed a spot on Seramount’s top 10 list of companies for executive women, as measured by succession planning, profit-and-loss roles, gender pay parity, support programs, and flexibility programs.

The ALPHA Plus initiative will also focus on solutions to increase fish production in Lake Victoria and Lake Volta by evaluating the veterinary and productivity requirements of small-scale fish producers in the region. In particular, tilapia provides vital food security to a rapidly growing and urbanizing population, yet fishermen from top-producing countries report a decrease in supply, likely due to climate change. Considered a “democratic fish” due to its affordability, tilapia is mostly locally consumed, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

The initiative will continue to provide access to veterinary products, diagnostic tools, and distribution networks. Zoetis is prioritizing the development of distribution and training models for the so-called ‘last mile’ networks, which aim at extending the delivery of medicines even to the most rural of communities. For many farmers, agro/drug shops are key resources for preventing widespread disease and increasing herd sustainability. This investment in the last mile provides certified training courses and cold-chain improvement to prevent damaged products as a result of power supply issues.

“Access to medicines and technology will help farmers raise healthier animals, improve productivity, and secure more sustainable revenue, which is critical to the economic development and well-being of the region and its population,” said Kristin Peck, CEO of Zoetis.

Zoetis launched its first sustainability initiative, Driven to Care, in 2021, and has since followed up its commitment with a sustainability report released in June 2022. Inside, the company updated its climate goals to include both 100% renewably sourced energy and carbon-neutral operations by 2030. The report is aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) and outlines how they will match these to their three pillars: communities, animals, and planet.

Fortunately, Zoetis is on track to achieve another year of operational growth, after growing revenue by 8% in 2022. This year, the company aims for full-year operational growth of 6% to 8%.

“Looking ahead, we are well-positioned with the strategy and capabilities to expand in large and growing product areas like parasiticides, dermatology products, monoclonal antibodies, vaccines, and diagnostics, while still investing in comprehensive solutions across the continuum of animal care,” said Peck. “We are committed to continuing our track record of value creation and above-market performance even in the face of today’s economic uncertainty.”

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