Shortcomings in the organisation of milk collection, processing and marketing systems have seriously undermined the potential of smallholder dairy producers to exploit urban markets in many developing countries. Experience has shown that improved technical and management skills as well as a participatory approach from grass-root level are essential for promoting initiative and building self-confidence in producer organisations.
Milk producer organisations have played a central role in the development of dairying all over the world and are particularly strong in countries where governments provided supportive policy environments to encourage democratic producer groups. Co-operative structures are the most popular form of association, affiliated to national organisations to represent producers' views and a global co-operative alliance. The emphasis has been on human resource development (HRD) and provision of inputs and services to enhance production and milk collection/processing systems to facilitate marketing.
The support of development agencies is needed to upgrade technical and organisational skills to accelerate developments in the area of producer organisation. Governments must create an enabling environment through legislative and policy changes and training to promote a democratic approach to group formation. FAO has produced a series of resource books on a participatory approach to group formation and the most recent of these resource books provides a practical guide to assist milk producer groups. FAO dairy projects are helping milk producer organisations to empower very poor landless communities in developing countries. Through its field programme, FAO supports national organisations responsible for dairy development including aspects such as policy, standards, legislation and strategies.