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FAO supports dairy farmers to bring quality milk to the market

Entrepreneurship can contribute to better nutrition

Madam Flora Uwera, FAO project beneficiary and member of IAKIB Milk Cooperative in Gicumbi District of Rwanda. Photo credit: FAO/Rik Moors

3 July 2014 Gicumbi District, North of Rwanda -- Quality milk is one of the most nutrient-rich natural beverages available in the world. Containing a healthy dose of at least nine essential vitamins and minerals, milk can be, quite literally, a lifesaver for populations suffering from an extremely nutrient-poor diet in developing countries.

In Rwanda, the expression “have milk” — “gira amata” — is not part of a milk-moustachioed marketing campaign. It’s a wish for prosperity.

FAO, in November 2007, launched a project to 'Improve Food Security Project in Cross-Border Districts of the Great Lakes Region in Support to the Modernization of Agriculture under the NEPAD Framework: Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Rwanda and Uganda’. In the Gicumbi District of Rwanda, efforts have focused on the improvement of farmers’ food and nutrition security and cash income through the intensification, value addition and commercialization of agriculture and livestock products with an emphasis on the milk value chain, from dairy farmers to milk collectors, processors, and retailers.

During the project implementation, farmers were organized at milk production level as cooperatives, and registered with the Rwanda Cooperative Authority (RCA), a cooperatives regulatory arm of the Government. One such dairy co-operative is IAKIB which has almost 700 members of milk producers and collectors in Gicumbi District.

In addition to milk collection centres, IAKIB built a feed plant in Kageyo (about 100km east from Kigali) to facilitate farmers’ easy access to quality feeds for their cows. FAO contributed feeds processing machines, a set of a raw materials siever, cleaner, grinder and mixer to the plant to enhance production.

Beneficiaries’ feedback

Flora Uwera, a 69 year-old widow, is a dairy farmer and milk collector of the co-operative. She received a cow from a government funded-programme (Heifer International Project – HPI) in 2003 and her family life is now completely transformed.

“Now I own five cows and two calves. Two of the cows produce around 30 litres per day per cow. From the money made from milk sales, I have renovated this house, paid my children’s school fees up to the University, set up a rain water harvesting system, built a home biogas plant that supplies constant gas for cooking and lighting, and I use the manure from the cows to fertilize my passion fruit and vegetable farms. The production and marketing of the milk is an integral part of my success and that cannot be told without mentioning the assistance from FAO. In my village, we received 10 bicycles from FAO to assist us transport milk to the IAKIB collection centres and also we received training on good animal husbandry and in book keeping”. I have benefited a lot from joining the co-operative as well, we the members have access to credit services provided by the co-operative in the form of dairy inputs, including veterinary services and drugs, and animal feeds. We have yearly bonuses on cash profits as well…”, recounted Flora Uwera.

The co-operative milk collection centres preserve raw fresh milk in a cooling refrigerator. FAO donated a 3,000 litre milk cooling tank to the IAKIB cooperative to assist the preservation of the milk, especially the one from the evening milking. Thus, the evening milk is stored in cool conditions and sold, together with the one of the following morning, to factories like the Blessed Diary Limited for processing into yoghurt, cheese, cream, butter, etc.) to satisfy the increasing demand of milk finished products.

Blessed Diaries Limited in Gicumbi District is managed by Mr Ngirente Milton, who also benefited from the technical assistance of the FAO Project in Rwanda.

Mr Ngirente Milton corroborated the community’s account and in his own words said:“I was formerly a dairy farmer and milk collector within the IAKIB cooperative in this district. Blessed Diary Limited was designed as a result of an FAO sponsored study tour to a food processing factory in Uganda. From there, I developed the idea of establishing a similar milk processing plant in Rwanda. I first developed a business plan, and I applied for a bank loan to set up this factory. It has over 2,000 litres processing capacity per day and employs about 30 permanent youths and more than 90 casual laborers.  Currently we produce for the market: yoghurt, cheese, fresh cream, butter, fresh full and skimmed milk. We also supply fresh raw milk to most hotels in the capital Kigali as well as to bigger factories like Inyange Factory to which we supply about 15,000 litres of raw milk per day for processing and packaging. IAKIB members have been our key partners in business in supplying us raw milk and we, in return pay them promptly on agreed upon prices. In total, Blessed Diary Ltd pays the dairy Cooperative more than 120 million RwF (equivalent to more or less 176,000 US$) per month. In the near future, we are thinking of expanding our business operations through buying and processing more milk, reaching bigger markets, and training more youth within the community for employment in the factory.”

Recently, after the successful production, value addition and commercialization of the milk, FAO and the Rwandan Ministry of Agriculture launched a new “Milk Bars Initiative” aimed at completing the value chain through encouraging the consumption of milk to address malnutrition in poor families at the community level.

In Rwanda, the average milk consumption per individual is 50 litres annually as against FAO recommended 170 litres per person annually.

Mr. Attaher Maïga, FAO Representative in Rwanda, in his statement during the launch stated that, “The ‘Milk Bars Initiative’, is aimed at making milk accessible in trading centres across the country, where the predominant beverages are alcoholic drinks. The promotion of these “Milk bars” will contribute to improving the nutrition of vulnerable people at the grassroots and communities”

The Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) will be held in Rome from 19 to 21 November 2014, with the participation of Heads of State and Government, under the auspices of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations and the World Health Organization (WHO).

The Conference will be the first high-level intergovernmental conference on nutrition since the First International Conference on Nutrition was organized by FAO and WHO in 1992. The First Conference resulted in a World Declaration and Plan of Action for Nutrition which called on national leaders to develop National Plans of Action for Nutrition and establish institutional infrastructure to implement these plans.


Contacts: Ewurama Greenslade, Communications, FAO Regional Office for Africa. Email: Ewurama.greenslade@fao.org


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