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Alfred de Vries

Senior Program Officer for Animal Production

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Alfred de Vries works at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as Senior Program Officer for Animal Production. He leads the Foundation’s efforts in R&D for Animal Production (genetics, reproduction, feed) aimed at increasing livestock productivity in Sub-Saharan Africa and South-Asia. Alfred has extensive experience in animal breeding across many geographies from his time at international breeding companies (CRV, Topigs Norsvin and PIC) . He had management positions in R&D, technical service and operations. He obtained his MSc and PhD degrees in Animal Sciences from Wageningen University and holds a Global Certificate in Management from INSEAD.

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Abstract

Tropical livestock for wealth in developing countries

The Agriculture Development program at the Gates Foundation strives to empower smallholder farmers with the tools and technologies they need to boost productivity, farm income and food quality. We partner with governments, local NGOs and businesses to give farmers better access to the markets, distribution networks, and the inputs they need.
Our investments in livestock started in 2012. The reasons for including livestock in the program were:

  • 60% of people in extreme poverty own livestock
  • livestock often their most important asset
  • 30-40% of Agricultural GDP
  • important source for high quality nutrition
  • opportunity to empower women
  • enormous potential for yield improvement

Most animals in developing countries have health challenges and very low yields (~10 times lower compared to other countries), resulting in low farmer income, poor resource efficiency, high GHG emission intensity and high consumer prices.

The major constraints for higher productivity are in animal health, genetics and feed quality. To address these constraints, we have made investments in new technologies, products and delivery systems. Examples in genetics are genomic selection, sex sorted semen and artificial insemination for dairy cows and buffaloes. Important investments in poultry genetics are in the delivery of locally adapted chicken with 5-10 times more egg production. Other promising investments are in digital platforms that link farmers to the formal market as well as to financial services.

These technologies help to overcome barriers for successful farming in tropical countries, but much more innovation and investments are needed to give every farmer the chance of healthy and productive livestock.