Innovation in small-scale animal health markets Agro- and livestock input markets in Kenya and Ethiopia

For lower-income, small-scale farmers worldwide, livestock are more than assets providing consumable products — they serve as a bank account and insurance policy as well. They can be sold at any time, making them a highly fungible and important (albeit ancient) asset and development tool within lower-income small-scale mixed farming systems. Minimising livestock illness and loss, therefore, is vital to protecting and improving small-scale farmers’ assets and livelihoods.

Amongst various clients, we’ve worked with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s agricultural development livestock team on improving access to quality animal health products and services, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa. The objective is twofold: improve productivity to maximise the milk, eggs and meat small-scale farmers can access from each animal and, secondly, protect and extend the life of each animal. This contributes to controlling both zoonotic diseases (passed from animal to human) and diseases passed from animal to animal. The quality of the products and the adherence to their proper usage are also critical to prevent antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

Below, we sketch out the project design that enabled us to carry out unprecedented research on the structures, flows and current realities of Kenyan and Ethiopian agro- and livestock input markets. We aim for this to enable animal health market actors and innovators to better understand how they might effectively introduce and improve products and services with the potential to boost the productivity and sustainability of small-scale farmers.

Project design: ecosystem studies, universe studies and a market data platform 

Innovation in the livestock health space is burgeoning — a positive trend we wanted our project design to support. As a result, we structured our project to gather data and make it available in formats that would support continuing evolution within this (highly regulated) sector. We devised three project parts: ecosystem studies, universe studies and a market data platform. 

1. Ecosystem studies: Clarifying “opaque”, misunderstood markets

Our ecosystem studies evolved from a hypothesis/Theory of Change put forward by the Gates Foundation. They proposed that a key reason for lower-income farmers’ lack of access to standard animal health products in developing markets — in particular, East Africa — is that these markets are seen by manufacturers and other market actors as opaque, or are misunderstood due to a lack of accurate market data. 

Working with AgNexus, our partners in Nairobi, we designed a method to fill this market data void. Our aim was to provide a comprehensive market overview for potential entrants, across the private sector, established animal health businesses and innovators hoping to enter the space. Focusing on Kenya and Ethiopia, we gathered data on:


  • The fundamentals of local livestock market operation (including key species, farming systems and retail structures)

  • Mapping of key actors in the animal health ecosystem, their interactions and market structure

  • Key channels for animal health product provision from manufacturers to the small-scale farmer (across three product categories: biologicals, pharmaceuticals, vitamins & supplements)

  • Animal health regulatory environment and national strategies


Holistically designed, our ecosystem studies aimed to provide information relevant to as wide a range of stakeholders as possible. Not just regulators, authorities and major veterinary medicine companies but also small innovators and potential market entrants at any step in the value chain, regardless of available resources.

In Ethiopia, we identified that the private retail sector is, from a small base, growing massively. Trends show increasing privatisation and liberalisation, which look set to continue. However, the central role of the state remains clear, with government channels key to market control.

Section of our Ethiopia ecosystem report, showing the flow of animal health products across value chain actors based on qualitative research. 


In Kenya, we found that private retail channels are crucial — but the innovation startup landscape is lively. For larger-scale organisations looking to enter the Kenyan market, this highlights potential on-the-ground innovation partners.

With data on the Kenyan and Ethiopian markets as our starting point, we designed into our process the ability to share and present the information comparably. This will support useful analysis as we expand our research to further markets. Overall, aiming to provide sector actors worldwide with an enhanced sense of how they can serve small-scale, microentrepreneur farmers in Kenya, Ethiopia and beyond. 

1. Universe studies: Mapping the full agricultural retailer landscape

We launched universe studies in each market to complement the ecosystem studies with a quantitative, data-driven picture of the entire retail sector for agrodealers; the shops selling small-scale farmers the majority of their farm inputs and animal health products. For the first time in history, we gauged precisely how many of these retail outlets there are across Kenya and Ethiopia, as well as profiling each in terms of ownership, size, age and other basic data, making this data publicly available. Easily transferable to other market sectors, we also aim to leverage this quantitative method to support additional projects in rural areas. 


2. AgNexus market data platform: Providing rolling, granular data

Working with the statistics on the agricultural sector retail population gathered in the universe study, AgNexus created a statistically representative test panel for Kenya, accurately representing the national population. Collecting sales data on a monthly basis, they are generating highly detailed market insights — granular to the SKU level, incorporating seasonality flows and available online. These insights help position sector players — large or small — to adjust elements of their product or service to suit the diverse, previously harder-to-gauge needs of small-scale farmers. 

Innovation in small-scale animal health: 3 thoughts to take forward

1. Meet SMEs where they are

Even in aiming to innovate and improve products and services in animal health, start with what's already there and already working. The relationship that exists between local retailers, embedded and trusted in the community, and small-scale farmers is invaluable. This is where we started: not aiming to reinvent animal health product supply but to support existing flows to function better through transparency. Providing better data and enhanced understanding for all sector players of the existing — and projected — market structure and flows.


2. How can (last mile) sales and distribution link in?

Building on our work with GALVmed, we’re exploring ideas for enhancing distribution in small-scale agriculture. Innovating and improving distribution processes across the value chain, from manufacturers to distributors through to last mile retailers.

3. What would you want to see in these types of studies? 

As we continue evolving our methodology and approach, we would very much value feedback and input from sector players and innovators in the East African animal health space. What did we miss in our research and data so far? Where can we provide further useful depth or breadth? For which other markets would this approach be useful? Feel free to comment below, or reach out via DM or email.