The dairy industry in East Africa accounts for 2-4% of the national GDP, and is a source of income and employment as well as food to millions of households.
The dairy fraternity is stepping in to ensure the future security of its raw materials by mitigating the negative effects of erratic weather patterns on local dairy production.
Tetra Pak, for example, is setting up Dairy Hub systems to improve milk collection and enhance processor-farmer relationships in Kenya, Tanzania Uganda and Rwanda.
Justus Ombok, the regional co-ordinator of Tetra Pak’s Food for Development office in East Africa, explains how the Dairy Hubs initiative unites local smallholder farmers with government agencies and industry partners to secure a sustainable future and to reap the benefits of volume production.
“Tapping into hidden reserves of milk, as we refer to them, is achieved through partnerships with dairy processors by first identifying milk pockets within milk producing areas (milk belts), then installing basic testing and milk collection infrastructure known as village milk collection and cooling centres (VMCs).
The VMCs provide market access to small-scale dairy farmers, encouraging them to deliver their morning as well as evening milk because they have the assurance that the processor will be a committed and long term partner, given the financial and social investment he/she will have to put in,” says Ombok. “The VMCs enable farmers to get access to various services offered by the processor, though on a check-off system – including feeds, AI (what does this stand for?) services, training, etc.”
Quality, storage and collection
The milk from the VMCs is collected by the processor’s milk tanker and delivered to a mother milk collection plant, or directly to the processing plant, depending on the proximities and volumes. This shortens the milk marketing channels and increases the opportunity for better quality milk.
The mother milk collection plant also serves as the central point for all training, data collection, extension services support, record keeping and milk bulking. The plant is owned and run by the processor, and can serve up to 30 VMCs.
“This whole network is commonly referred to as the Dairy Hub one herd concept. Through this network, the processor is guaranteed good quality raw milk, which is tested before being accepted, and cooled within the recommended four hours after milking, to prevent the propagation of bacteria,” he states.
Good quality acceptable milk is received and stored in separate bulking tanks, while milk that does not meet the right quality parameters is rejected. Upon rejection, a probe is conducted on the farm from which the milk came to help address quality constraints.
“Dairy Hubs create an increasingly effective collection network, with more milk collected faster, delivering higher volumes and better quality raw milk, which can often be a challenge for many countries in East Africa due to underdeveloped road networks and insufficient milk collection centres,” says Kelly Boucher-Aburi, Tetra Pak’s Food for Development sub-Sahara cluster director. “For the first time, smaller dairy farmers have ‘firepower’ to break into the processed milk market – and local communities flourish nutritionally, economically and environmentally.”
She emphasizes that the role of these hubs is to tap into a broader hidden reserve of milk that can often make a difference by increasing the GDP significantly. “There is no government that will not want to take this on board once the benefits are recognised. In our region, Tetra Pak East Africa is working with customers in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania in setting up Dairy Hub systems to improve milk collection and to enhance the processor-farmer relationship.”
TetraPak East Africa: Tel +254 20 690 9000; website: www.tetrapak.com/ffdo