African Livestock Productivity and Health Advancement (ALPHA) Initiative


Improving business development in the animal health sector and improving livestock productivity through the reduction of major livestock diseases in sub-Saharan Africa.

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 impoverished livestock farmers.

  • Nigeria has the largest overall African livestock population of 144 million chickens and 131 million ruminants.
  • Ethiopia has the largest cattle population in Africa of 57 million.
  • Uganda has the highest pork consumption rate per capita in East Africa. The pig population is projected to grow from 3.2 million to 8 million in 2020.

Over half of the people who live on less than $1 per day in Sub-Saharan Africa depend on livestock, which provides up to 45 percent of the total family income. Livestock are an essential asset to rural communities and the health of livestock is critical to achieving food security in areas of exceptionally high animal and human disease incidence.

To ensure rising food and nutrient needs are met, livestock farming productivity must be improved. However, there are serious constraints to livestock farming and severe limitations in the animal health sector overall, including:

  • Lack of access to high-quality veterinary medicines and products.
  • Poor veterinary extension services in rural communities, resulting in low medicalisation rates and high disease incidence.
  • Limited diagnostic infrastructure for animal disease detection and intervention.
  • Poorly regulated veterinary product supply networks, coupled with lack of education, results in incorrect animal health product use and subsequent ineffectiveness of medicines.

In an effort to tackle the above constraints, The African Livestock Productivity and Health Advancement (A.L.P.H.A) Initiative was created in May 2017 following award of a $14.4 million, three-year co-funded grant by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) to Zoetis lnc, the largest global animal health company. This co-funding partnership between BMGF and Zoetis is unique; where BMGF is working directly together with industry to improve livestock production.


The ALPHA initiative is working to advance livestock health and productivity in three countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, Nigeria, Uganda and Ethiopia.

Core objectives

Invest in sustainable collaborative business and supply networks that will lead to a thriving animal health and related business community

  • Improved availability of veterinary medicines through novel product registrations to extend the number of veterinary treatments available for livestock diseases.
  • Adaptation of product packaging/volume for selected products to ensure affordability and practicality for the smallholder market.
  • Investment in the development of a certified local distributor network, including distributor training to ensure correct and responsible veterinary product use.

Improved livestock health and productivity through the reduction of animal diseases

  • Organisation of outreach services for rural communities to improve medicalisation rates of livestock, and deliver community education regarding animal disease to demonstrate the potential of animal health to maximise profitability of smallholder farming.
  • Provision of a fully operational, sustainable diagnostic infrastructure delivered in conjunction with local partners to improve the correct diagnosis of major livestock production diseases and increase correct and responsible use of veterinary products.
  • Support of local veterinary stakeholders with professional development/business training courses.
  • Outcomes research driven by epidemiological studies to demonstrate the return on investment of animal health for local communities, with results communicated in educational resources designed for maximum accessibility for local farmers.

Role of the University of Surrey

Over the next three years, the Veterinary Health Innovation Engine (vHive), a research centre built with the collaboration of University of Surrey and Zoetis, will partner with Zoetis to deliver specific aspects of the ALPHA initiative.

The University of Surrey’s School of Veterinary Medicine through vHive is providing support to measure impact of grant activities and to conduct specific studies to demonstrate the return on investment of animal health interventions for smallholder communities. Additionally University of Surrey is providing support to develop digital data capture tools to enable big data to be processed to evaluate success and identify disease priorities.

University of Surrey scope

The University of Surrey is responsible for A.L.P.H.A data-driven activities including conducting on-farm baseline studies for production and economic parameters, and conduct of follow-up studies following interventions targeting relevant smallholder farmer communities, in close collaboration with the Zoetis Outcomes Research team.

University activities are structured and progressed under the following broad themes:

  • Baseline
  • Intervention
  • Measure
  • Share.

In the media


Partnerships are essential to ensure maximum positive and sustainable impact to the region. The ALPHA initiative is working with various partners both locally and externally to deliver its objectives. The list of partners will continue to expand as activities roll out in the target countries. Our partners to-date include:

Local partners

  • Governmental authorities
  • Local veterinary associations
  • National and international NGOs
  • Farmers associations
  • Private sector distribution companies
  • Local institutions (Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria; Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda; Jimma University, Ethiopia).

External partners

the Vet School building at dusk

vHive – Veterinary Health Innovation Engine

vHive utilises transformational digital and data analytics tools to advance the wellbeing of domestic animals.

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