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Emerging innovations for sustainable dairy developments in East-Africa

Wondewesen Kebede a dairy advisor trims a cow's hoof at Nardel Farm, Debre Zeit, Ethiopia where he offers such services to commercial dairy farmers

© CTA

Wednesday, 15 November 2017 Updated on Thursday, 22 March 2018

Dairy is one of the fastest growing agricultural sub-sectors in Eastern Africa, making the region the leading milk-producer in Africa. The region is a buzz for innovations in the dairy sector. However, many of these innovations are not shared with industry actors or do not influence the value chain widely. This document presents several innovations in the East African dairy sector that are inspiring examples for further dairy developments in Africa.

Dairying in Southern & East Africa

The East Africa region produces 68% of the continent's milk output, with Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and Tanzania among the biggest dairy producers. Dairy in Eastern Africa is significant in that it is dominated, mainly at the production level, by smallholder farmers, accounting for up to 80% of the milk produced in the region. 80% of this milk is marketed raw, through what is referred to as the warm chain (raw milk chain).

Wondewesen Kebede a dairy advisor trims a cow's hoof at Nardel Farm, Debre Zeit, Ethiopia where he offers such services to commercial dairy farmers

Wondewesen Kebede a dairy advisor trims a cow's hoof at Nardel Farm, Debre Zeit, Ethiopia where he offers such services to commercial dairy farmers

© CTA

The demand for milk and milk products have continued to grow over the years due to urbanization, population growth and improving household incomes. The annual demand growth is estimated at approximately 3.4% - 4%, yet the production growth of milk is estimated at about 2.2% presenting a missed bag of fortunes. This presents opportunities for increasing production and marketing for smallholder dairy farmers, as well as for medium- and large-scale farmers and processors to increase the supply of processed milk and milk products.

A growing demand: ground for innovation

The demand for market share of processed milk and milk products have increased substantially, with the entry of multi-national companies in the regional markets in East Africa. This competition among processing companies has led these companies to the doorsteps of smallholder dairy farmers. The processors' main concern is securing a sustainable supply of good quality milk. Development actors too see a great opportunity to increase production and incomes for smallholder farmers through sustainable production and business practices.

The dairy sub-sector in East Africa has shown a buzz for innovation. Some at nascent stages, while some are at advanced stages. Some examples are increasing milk production while keeping the cost of production low; feeding management to address seasonality of milk supply; milk quality and traceability; use of ICT in the provision of extension services and new ways of relating with smallholder farmers for shared value.

Tilahun Mulatu, a Dairy Advisor gives dairy management tips to farm works at the Zamg Business PLC in Chacha, Ethiopia

Tilahun Mulatu, a Dairy Advisor gives dairy management tips to farm works at the Zamg Business PLC in Chacha, Ethiopia

© CTA

Bringing innovations to scale

These innovations, if identified and nurtured well, create impetus for new growth in the industry, benefiting the smallholder farmers and dairy businesses. The current challenge though, is that these innovations are localised in a country or a location within a country, are not shared with industry actors and subsequently do not influence value chain practices widely. In recognition of these challenges, CTA Wageningen Livestock Research and ESADA has joined forces to document and share some emerging innovations at the 2017 ESADA Conference, 15-17 November, in Johannesburg South Africa, with a view to show potential of the African dairy sector, to inspire others for working on innovations in dairy and to increase opportunities for bringing current innovations to scale.

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