AGA IN ACTION
Milk making the difference
Dairy development in Afghanistan
Afghanistan is a traditional livestock country and was in the past self-sufficient in livestock products. Afghan consumers prefer mainly yoghurt, doogh (fermented milk drink), fresh milk, Chhaka (quarg), Paneer (soft cheese) and other dairy products. Cream is also highly appreciated, particularly in the freezing winter months. Milk and dairy products are mainly consumed in the morning and at lunchtime.
FAO started dairy development activities in Afghanistan in 1998 with the support of the Government of the United Kingdom and the United Nations Development Programme followed by the Government of Germany in 2002. The interest for the development of the dairy sector came from both consumers and producers.
The integrated dairy scheme approach
- Initially the fodder resources were developed and improved to feed dairy cows.
- Farmers were organized initially as milk producers groups.
- Farmers, their groups and local service providers were trained in improved animal husbandry and animal health practices.
- Milk producers co-operatives were then set up to formalize the enterprises and enable the groups to be more visible and trade more effectively.
- At the same time milk processing and marketing centres (known as window shops) were set up in urban and peri urban areas to provide direct access to consumers.
- A milk processing plant was established by an FAO project in Kabul, in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL) and the Kabul Dairy Union.
- The producer co-operatives were then organized into regional bodies as Milk Unions in Kabul, Mazar I Sharif and Kunduz and now represents over 1600 dairy farmers and their families (10400 beneficiaries).
- The milk production and collection networks have grown gradually as a high level of pervading insecurity and related investment risks still affect its expansion.
The government and the development community have tasked FAO to advise and guide the development of a national dairy development policy and strategy to ensure a sustainable future with continuing benefits and participation by Afghan farmers and their families. A national dairy development committee has been established since June 2005 to formulate the national dairy policy and strategy for Afghanistan. The General Director of Livestock Production and Animal Health Dept of MAIL chairs the committee in which the new Afghan Dairy Union is also represented. FAO provides support and advice to the committee. The national policy is currently being developed through a series of stakeholder workshops and will be finalized by mid 2009.
- An increased level of household food security and increased income for other food at village level (Annual income of each farmer has increased from 160US$ to 545 US$ from selling surplus milk production (2003- 2007)
- Women are the main beneficiaries of the project and receive over 90% of income earned from the milk produced
- Increased milk availability in urban centres and increased incomes flows from urban to rural areas
- At the farm level milk production per animal has more than doubled and income levels for participating farmers and their families have also risen substantially - typically each farmer now markets the surplus milk per cow and earns approx. 80 Afa (US$1.6) per animal per day for their milk as well as having the benefit of milk available to meet their household needs
- The provision of a new yoghurt processing and packaging line in Kabul has also greatly improved the marketability of products for the milk co-operatives
The gradual but progressive approach to dairy development has been recognized as successful by independent partners and agencies and has formed the basis for future dairy development activities by other agencies in Afghanistan. The success of the project has stimulated the World Bank, the Government of Italy and the International Fund for Agricultural Development to substantially invest in dairy development in Afghanistan in collaboration with MAIL.
Challenges for the future
- To increase market access and improve the image of safe, quality national products.
- To improve the capacity of co-operatives to progressively contract their own service and inputs providers to meet producer demands and improved dairy enterprise operations and profits.
- To progressively hand more of the strategic planning and decision making over to the dairy union management (Kabul, Mazar and Kunduz) and dairy policy development to the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock.
- To provide strategic and operational support to the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock in dairy development activities in Afghanistan.
- Face competition from dairy imports of dubious quality.
- Increasing occurrence of drought and extremely harsh winter cold.
- Change from socially-oriented to enterprise mode within co-operatives and unions.