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Milking money; ending poverty through dairy farming

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By Vyalema Kaluluma-Phiri:

NOT LEFT OUT—Women members of the group

In this second part, we continue exploring the ups and downs of dairy farmers in districts such as Dowa, Lilongwe and Mchinji.

The data show that on average, each household gets 12.4 litres of milk from their dairy animals per day which is sold at a price of K 170 per litre at the milk bulking group, thereby earning total annual income of about K583, 221 as compared to non-project participants who get as low as K333, 115.

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“The households that have dairy animals, the contribution of income from milk to total household income is over 25%. Across the three districts, a higher proportion of sampled project participant households were food secure from own production than the non-project participants. For the whole sample, 64% of the project participants were able to subsist from own production for at least 12 months, compared to only 24% of the non-project participants. Discussions with project participants through Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) revealed that organic manure obtained from the cows contributed to increased food production,” reads the report in part.

However, there are also some challenges that dairy farmers face with their enterprise. For instance, Bua Milk Bulking Group in Traditional Authority (TA) Mlonyeni in Mchinji District, is facing challenges with increased number of empty cows that has resulted into low production of milk.

The group’s secretary, Davis Kachingwe, attributed the challenge to lack of access to Artificial Insemination (AI) technology arguing the bulls available are not enough.

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“There are challenges related to access to breeding and health services, which is contributing to low productivity of milk down from 1, 000 litres a day to 156.6 litres a day. In fact our buyer comes every four days to collect 700 litres but our milk tank has a volume capacity of 3, 000 litres. What we need to be able to bulk a lot of milk is Artificial Insemination technology with high yielding breeds for the farmers to ensure increased incomes,” Kachingwe said.

He then opined that increasing milk prices which is now below K200 per litre to above K300 could help the farmers to immediately address challenges faced during dairy farming like high production costs.

The evaluation report done by M & A Consulting Firm attests to this citing Mponela Milk Bulking Group where some farmers prefer selling their milk to restaurants due to high prices as compared to that offered at the bulking group.

“There is need to strengthen the collective marketing arrangements through the MBGs for the producers to be able to bargain for higher prices with the processors. Although the informal market channels might appear to offer more competitive prices in the short term, the benefits of collective marketing will continue to accrue to the producers over a long period of time through the readily available market from the processors,” recommends the report.

Heifer International Malawi feels the bulking groups are destined to prosperity by maintaining milk quality while increasing dairy production.

“We have an assessment tool that we use to see if the project is being sustained or not. This tool can be be tailored to fit different situations. For example, will these groups continue to practice pass-on program, cross breeding services, payment of membership fee, drug revolving fund and more importantly working hand in hand with the Caves [Community Agro- Vet Entrepreneurs] and Artificial Insemination Technicians, who are critical to the development of the dairy sector,” Mwai Chitete, the Country Director for Heifer International Malawi, said.

One of the 63 trained caves, who doubles as the Artificial Insemination Technician, Light Masina of Phuka village in TA Siphasi in Mchinji District said his work is made simple during any diease outbreak because the group is able to mobilise resources in time.

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has projected that world milk production will grow at 1.7 percent per annum to 981 metric tonnes by 2028 over the next decade, faster than most other main agricultural commodities. The force behind this increasing demand for dairy farming is the rising populations and revenue growth particularly in Asia and Africa.

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