Africa / Animal Products / Dairying / East Africa / Livestock / PIL

White gold: Experts assess dairy opportunities in East Africa and Ethiopia

Earlier this April, the Inter-Agency Donor Group on pro-poor livestock research and development (IADG) held a Dairy Expert Consultation in Uganda. The three-day event (1–3 April 2014) in Masaka-Mbarara gathered over 50 dairy experts from six East African countries and beyond.

ILRI’s Isabelle Baltenweck was part of the facilitation team.

The expert consultation was held to find ways to better coordinate investments in East Africa’s dairy sector development, specifically by providing opportunity for stakeholders to reflect on the finding of a recent study carried out on behalf of IADG. The experts were also asked to set and prioritize actions to capitalize on opportunities presented by the East African dairy sector. The roles of various partners in these endeavours (public and private sectors, farmer groups, civil society actors and knowledge institutes) was discussed as well.

The study and the consultation were a follow up to the 14th IADG Annual Meeting on pro-poor livestock research and development in May 2013, which recommended better coordination by development agencies on dairy development in East Africa.

The consultation offered the experts an opportunity to exchange views on current issues in the region’s dairy sector. Presentation of results of the study, White Gold: Opportunities for Dairy Sector Development Collaboration in East Africa, by the lead consultant, Nathaniel Makoni, kicked off discussions on key issues in dairy sector development in Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.

See the presentation:

The roles of small scale and other types of traders were discussed at length, with some participants acknowledging their role in providing a market to smallholders and affordable milk to poor consumers, while other advocating for a cold chain value chain providing only processed products. A visit to a cooperative and a trader near Mbarara provided the opportunity to assess the relevance of the 2 approaches, with most participants agreeing that context is everything and donors should support relevant approaches so as to progressively upgrade the value chain in an inclusive manner.

Ways to increase the participation of women in dairy value chains was also a recurring issue. To increase the profile of dairy farmers, it was suggested to organize a competition for ‘best woman farmer of the year’, with women applying at local level and ending up in a national then regional (EA) competition. Using farm visits and innovative ways to get people to assess candidates, this could benefit the winners as well as the entire dairy industry through awareness creation and profiling of role models.

The experts reached agreement on important actions to be pursued by different actors and in different ways.

The largest dairy opportunities in the region were seen to be producing much larger quantities of milk, improving milk quality, reducing transaction costs to lower consumer prices and the promotion of milk consumption by governments and industry bodies. The challenges to be overcome to take advantage of these opportunities were viewed as the following.

  1. Increase the availability and quality of feed and fodder to increase milk production and dairy productivity in the region. Public-sector roles include research, development and enforcement of regulations and certification. Private-sector roles include expansion of feed businesses, fodder farming and trade and linking with processors and farmers to shape extension. Farmers should be able to view feed and fodder cropping as business opportunities.
  2. Address other production-related factors including (a) quality of milk from cow to consumer, (b) access to land for producing feed and fodder, (c) breeding (increase the availability of crossbred heifers and the effectiveness of the public and private artificial insemination services), and (d) animal and human health threatened by zoonoses such as tuberculosis, brucellosis, and food and mouth disease.
  3. Enable large-scale farms to play a bigger role in linking smallholders to commercial value chains as nucleus farms that provide inputs (like heifers and feed) and services (like bulking and extension); see inclusion of smallholders as a chain-wide necessity (bulk supply and livelihood) in which processors, input suppliers, governments and NGOs all have roles to play; provide adequate incentives for smallholder inclusion and growth.
  4. Acknowledge informal marketing (cottage industry, licensed traders, petty traders, etc.) for its crucial role in an environment characterized by wide market diversity, weak chain links, lack of infrastructure (roads and electricity), and sub-optimal enforcement of regulations. The licensing of informal traders is a hotly debated issue. Privatization, (self-) regulation and enforcement are needed to improve input- and output markets, including feed quality, veterinary services and milk quality assurance. The role of cooperatives and the governance and management of cooperatives was seen as crucial from a business perspective.
  5. Develop markets through, for example, school milk feeding programs and milk consumption campaigns, but especially through product diversification that increases demand. Prices may decrease when milk quality improves, milk losses decline and processing capacity is utilized. Increases in milk consumption are also expected to come naturally with urbanization and rising middle classes with disposable income observed in cities across the region.
  6. Increase women and youth participation in the value chain and increase the benefits they derive from participation (e.g. in starting dairy farms, assisting farmers in fodder production, milk transportation and testing). Other key sustainability concerns were profitability and shared value along the dairy value chain and the ecological footprint of dairy (manure management and water issues are growing concerns).
  7. Develop capacity at different levels, from practical training to graduate, from input supply and farming to processing and retail, from farm/firm to value chain services at sector level; include the development of capacity to supply industry data on different levels, such as farm/business, value chain/market and sector.

All these areas would profit from a better balance between public funding (by national and international governments) and private investments. Donor agencies were advised to improve their coordination with national governments and to avoid funding that distorts markets, such as provision of equipment or temporary management capacity.

The above summary is based on a communiqué prepared by Jan van der Lee, of the Centre for Development Innovation at Wageningen UR, The Netherlands:

Download the full report

Read an earlier posting: East African dairy: Donors and stakeholders meet this week in Uganda to better coordinate their development work, 1 Apr 2014.

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