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Recognising the successes of Africa’s dairy sector


Resilience of the dairy sub-sector is a result of employing modern technologies and innovations


Africa’s dairy industry is faced with a number of challenges, including low productivity per cow, fluctuating milk production, inconsistent milk quality, the high cost of production, inefficiencies along the value chain and a large informal sector. Nevertheless, the dairy value chain is one of the most dynamic sectors in East Africa and critical to the country’s rural economy. Driven by population growth, urbanisation and improved purchasing power, the regional demand for dairy is growing by at least 2.2% each year.

The resilience and vibrancy of the sub-sector is a result of the tireless work of stakeholders to employ modern technologies, practices and innovations along the dairy value chain in order to meet varying market and regulatory demands. To recognise the unique efforts of actors in the dairy value chain – from smallholder dairy and fodder farmers to dairy cooperatives and processors – the Eastern and Southern Africa Dairy Association (ESADA) is developing a Dairy Industry Awards Scheme (DIAS), with support from CTA’s DAIRYPROFIT initiative. The award categories have been developed to cover key stages of the value chain, as well as incorporate cross-cutting issues, such as youth and gender mainstreaming. The main categories include:

  • Dairy Breeder of Distinction Award
  • Fodder Producer of Distinction Award
  • Dairy Farm of Distinction Award
  • Milk Collection Center of Distinction Award
  • Dairy Products Diversity Award
  • Dairy Social Inclusion Award

Inspiring increased productivity and efficiency

In collaboration with partners in Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia, DIAS aims to provide a platform for diary stakeholders to share their lessons and experiences. The scheme has been hailed as an important initiative to facilitate the replication of successful practices and innovations among other actors in the value chain, and drive the dairy sector’s transition into a more productive and competitive industry, which meets not only local, but international standards.

The exchange of practices and experiences is very important to ensure the transfer of technologies and knowledge between dairy stakeholders to support the sector’s continued growth. For instance, Zimbabwe has managed to uphold high quality, safety and hygiene standards among smallholder dairy farmers by nurturing good farming practices and effective policies, which should be shared with other African countries. Firstly, milk payment is based on quality, and secondly, raw milk is subject to stringent quality and safety assurance procedures, irrespective of whether it is produced by a small-scale farm or large, highly mechanised farm.

Promoting best practices and successful policy innovations

To ensure lessons are learnt from Zimbabwe’s success, ESADA facilitated the participation of 59 diary value chain actors (Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Zambia and Zimbabwe) in a mission to Zimbabwe, with support from the CTA’s DAIRYPROFIT programme. The key lessons and ideas observed by participants during the mission included:

  • High standards of hygiene and quality assurance are practiced across Zimbabwe’s dairy value chain by all actors;
  • Milk is paid exclusively based on quality;
  • Farmers are penalised heavily for adulteration of raw milk;
  • Cow hotel – concept of pulling together cows by smallholder farmers;
  • Bush dairy, where cows are milked in the grazing field;
  • Close collaboration between regulators and other actors in the dairy value chain enhances progressive policies and relevant support and interventions;
  • Opportunities for value addition by incorporating local resources, such as millet combined with milk and fermented curd.

As part of the DAIRYPROFIT initiative, Kenya also hosted a group of dairy actors from Tanzania, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and Zambia. The group visited some of Kenya’s most successful dairy cooperatives, including Githunguri Dairy Farmers Cooperatives and Kinangop Dairy Farmers Cooperative. During the visit, the group realised the benefits of successive cooperative involvement in milk production and marketing, from supporting farmers in the production of good quality milk to facilitating milk bulking and processing. Participants were also impressed by the commercial fodder production and the successful milk production in arid and semi-arid regions.

Participants in the missions to Kenya and Zimbabwe have already begun to implement some of the successful practices highlighted. For instance, one of the participants in Kenya is piloting the cow hotel model that was visited in Zimbabwe. In addition, a Tanzanian delegate has established a partnership with a Zimbabwean small processor to develop value added dairy products, such as fermented milk and curd. ESADA envision that the transfer of such valuable knowledge and experiences will spur growth and development in the dairy sector, thereby improving incomes for smallholder dairy farmers across East and Southern Africa.

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