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Milk and milk animals. Within the countries of southern and eastern Africa, cattle provide about 70 per cent of the milk produced, followed by goats (15 per cent) and sheep (11 per cent). Except in Zimbabwe and Kenya, the bulk of cow milk is, still being produced from indigenous zebu cattle. Due to the partial suckling system used by indigenous stockmen and the general lack of record keeping, the milk yield potential of indigenous stock under existing pastoral management is not accurately known. The seasonality of milk supply reflects a general response to feed availability as influenced by rainfall regimes. This shows that slightly higher yields could be obtained through improved dry season feeding and better milking hygiene. There is a need to study the effect of such measures under field conditions and to evaluate their biological and economic response to milk yield. Such studies are necessary because, given the harsh environmental conditions under which they operate, traditional cattle herdsmen are not likely (at least in the foreseeable future) to accept replacing their stock with cross-bred or pure-bred dairy animals which require scientific feeding and are more susceptible to tropical diseases. Thus in most of the countries, traditional cattle milk and the traditional processing which go with it will in the foreseeable future, continue to be the focal point of dairy development.

As a source of milk, goats appear to be of greater potential than sheep. However, the harsh climatic conditions under which they thrive at the moment (arid and semi-arid areas) would not be conducive to the introduction of pure or cross-bred dairy goats. It is not immediately clear whether there exists enough variability among the indigenous stock to warrant adoption of “selection” as a suitable tool for genetic improvement. However the introduction of cross-bred dairy goats appears to be suitable in those intensively cultivated, highland areas where the population density is so high as not to permit the rearing of cattle (Madsen and Mtenga, 1988) or in situations where farmers are unable to pay the high price demanded for dairy heifers (Boor et al, 1987). Since butterfat is the main component of milk that is preserved and highly prized, cross breeding, selection and introduction of new breeds in the traditional sector should pay due attention to the effect of those measures on milk solids concentration and fat in particular.

Level of processing. As long as traditional stock of low milk production potential continue to be the major source of milk for the rural peoples of the Southern and Eastern African region, traditional milk processing will continue to be a household activity revolving around natural fermentation of milk, traditional butter churning methods (which are appropriate to the small quantities of milk processed) and ghee preparation. Production of cottage cheese from the sour buttermilk is, with the exception of Ethiopia, generally not done. While improvements to existing household level technologies may be made (O'Mahony and Bekele, 1985), the introduction of new and more efficient milk processing techniques, equipment (centrifugal milk separators, wooden/metal butter churns) and products (boiled curd cheese) will require the setting up of milk processing units at the village (community) level. Such village-based dairy processing units will enable more economic processing of larger quantities of milk and will be more in line with the historical role of dairy creameries in the process of the development of the dairy industry in developed countries. Such a strategy is being applied in Ethiopia with some success (O'Mahony and Peters, 1987) and is thus worth emulating in the other countries after taking into account the peculiar cultural conditions of each community.

Traditional milk processing techniques. Naturally-fermented milk is the basis of traditional milk processing in Africa. In most African societies, special processing methods involving the application of wood smoke have evolved resulting in products with unique flavour and extended shelf life at ambient temperatures. Kurwijila (1989) points out that the practice is so widespread that it warrants much closer attention than has hitherto been given to it and that unlike the smoking of fish and meat products (FAO/WHO, 1975) there have been no studies on traditional smoking of milk.

In Africa a variety of plants ranging from grasses, shrubs, legumes and hardwoods such as Olea africana are used in the smoking of milk (see Table 13). It would be desirable to identify and characterise some of the common plants used and the smoke derived thereof as a first step towards understanding the possible effects of smoke application in milk.

The interaction of woodsmoke constituents with milk components (especially proteins) under the conditions of traditional smoking techniques need to be investigated with a view to establishing the effect of these interactions on the nutritive value of milk, on the bacterial flora and whether the improvement in shelf-life of traditional fermented milk is due to selective bacteriostasis or bactericidal effects. Information so obtained could be used:-

  1. To identify suitable and unsuitable wood types and conditions of pyrolysis,

  2. To identify the benefits or otherwise of the smoke application practices and give appropriate recommendations,

  3. To modify the smoking technique to for example, the use of standard smoke condensates from approved woodtypes in the industrial production of sour milk products bearing traditional flavour and taste where this is more desirable than conventional sour milk products.

Butter and ghee. When the processing of milk involves 2 to 20 litres of milk only, then extraction of fat from milk through churning of fermented milk is, under prevailing conditions in the rural areas, both practical and most appropriate. The efficiency of fat recovery may be improved through churning at temperatures slightly below 20°C (traditionally strived for through churning in the early morning hours) or by attachment of internal agitators to traditional vessels (O'Mahony and Bekele, 1985).

The overall efficiency in fat extraction can only be effected through the introduction of centrifugal separators and wood/metal churns of bigger capacity and better design than the traditional clay pot. Because of the high investment costs involved this strategy calls for establishment of village dairy centres to be operated on a co-operative basis or by individual entrepreneurs willing to pay pastoralists a good price for their surplus milk.

Cheese and milk curds. Although cheese is not a common dairy product in traditional African dairy processing, its introduction where local circumstances permit is highly desirable. It improves the preservation of valuable milk solids (skim milk) after the extraction of fat. Where quality can be guaranteed, there are a few successful cheese making ventures in the region to assure anyone that there exists enough local demand to justify such undertakings. O'Mahony and Peters (1987) have published manufacturing procedures for a number of cheese varieties considered most suitable to the African situations. A pasta filata type of cheese has proved to be a suitable cheese variety under village conditions in one FAO sponsored project in Tanzania. One of the main limitations of adoption of rennet cheese types is the lack of such critical ingredients as rennet and starter cultures. It would be desirable if some laboratories at academic and research institutions could undertake pioneer work in extraction of milk coagulating enzymes from plant, microbial and animal sources as well as the maintenance of dairy culture type collections to service the local demand for these items.


In the case of Ethiopia, the traditional technology for milk processing and the products have remained static owing to the lack of improved production and marketing organization. In recent years, in intra-urban and peri-urban areas, dairying has shown an appreciable tendency towards development. This is due to better market outlets for their products, availability of supplementary feed, better breeds, better animal health survices and easy access to technical advise. Pricing policy, poor feed resources, low productivity of the local animals, poor animal health services, poor marketing organization, absence of technical advise and training, have contributed to the existing conditions of production and processing.

If milk production is to increase, a dairy development package, including all the parameters of clean milk production along with processing pricing policy and marketing infrastructure must be prepared and implemented. This can be a long term projection as it requires a large investment. Short and medium term development projections such as small centralized processing units, clean milk production, introduction of appropriate forage crops, improvement of shelf life of traditional products, animals health services, marketing infrastructures and others that strengthen the dairy sector must be acted upon.

For a long time to come, traditional milk products have a role to play in the economy of the producers. Thus, they are important farm commodities.


In order to improve the national diet of the people and to curtail foreign exchange expenditure on milk and milk products, milk production, collection and marketing must be developed. During the high production season, there seems to be surplus milk at the production centres. The surplus milk is not efficiently utilized. If the surplus milk during this season could be collected and converted into butter oil and skim milk powder these products could be utilized for reconstitution during the low production season. Prior to any investment, the availability of milk, the reliability of the source and economic justification must be worked out.

Milking conditions and hygiene can be improved through the supply of clean water and training of the producers in clean milk production. This can only be achieved when there is a market for milk and when prices for clean milk are higher or more attractive to the producer than what they would get with the traditional production practices.

In sour milk technology, cream separation is not practiced. Butter is produced by churning the sour whole milk. This requires a larger churn capacity, because of the large volume of sour milk compared to cream. Otherwise, churning in small portions with the small traditional churns requires a long time. In rural areas the fresh milk market is not developed. As a result, farm income from dairy products for rural producers can only be generated through the sale of traditional products in rural markets. After a feasibility study, in the high producing areas, village processing units can be established. If found feasible, village processing units may be established in areas where milk marketing facilities are not available or likely to be made available in the near future.

The industrial level of processing is done by one plant in Bamako, that is the ULB. Presently, ULB is supplied with about 80 per cent of its milk requirements by means of imported milk powder, either purchased or through food aid. The rest, about 20 per cent is locally supplied fresh milk. This is due to the fact that road networks between the production centres and the plant, seasonal fluctuations in milk supply and collection and cooling facilities at the production centres and a refrigerated tanker for hauling milk to the plant are not available.

Thus, in order to strengthen the supply side, animal feed, water, selection and breeding and animal health services must be established and those that exist must be strengthened. Along side this, collection and haulage to the processing centre must be developed.

For a long time to come the traditional milk products will be produced. Unless milk preservation techniques and fresh milk markets are developed, owing to the short shelf life of milk, the sour milk technology is the only means of disposal of milk.


From the information presented above on traditional dairy products it may be concluded that the agricultural sector has a tremendous importance for each of the southcone countries, but there are still many difficulties. Nevertheless, most of those troubles have originated from several main weak points which could be summarised as follows:-

  1. Milk production deficiencies. According to specific studies and experts' opinions, the main problem in milk production in all the countries of Latin America, especially in the small producers group which are the most numerous, is the unsuitable systems for feeding cows. This problem is due to inadequate general management of the farm business and limited economic resources of the farmers. Nevertheless, the general low educational level of farmers and particularly the farmer's poor knowledge of specific matters such as dairy production, cow feeding, economic farm management, etc. have contributed to the problem as well. A low yield average (kg of milk/cow/year) is found in all of the countries; only the Argentinian yield is close to the European average but even this could be improved.

  2. Poor quality of raw milk and traditional dairy product. For the same reasons as are mentioned above, the quality of milk is poor. Cows are not usually subject to veterinary control, so many important illnesses such as tuberculosis, brucellosis, etc. could be transmitted through the milk to human beings. In addition mastitis is also found in cows in southcone countries. Consequently, traditional products which normally use raw milk have a poor quality, both from the point of view of the risk to human health and also in respect of the short shelf-life of the end product. Finally, a large amount of milk is lost due to rapid spoilage or high microbiological contamination.

    Because of this, traditional dairy products are less popular and suffering loss of prestige day by day.

  3. Workers skills are very poor. In the southcone countries, the educational level of workers in general is too low and most of them have never attended a specific course in milk production or processing. So they do not have technical knowledge to develop or to improve milking practices or processing steps in order to obtain higher quality of milk and traditional products made from it.

  4. Support for the traditional milk product sectors is insufficient. National and international aid to the dairy sector has traditionally been turned over to the industrial dairy sector of southcone countries. This happens because they are an influential sector. Big milk producers are located close to them and the establishment of a dairy factory is achieved quickly. To develop a big sector of small producers and associated traditional dairy processing a lot of work and many years are needed to obtain even a very small advance. However, advances of small farmers means development over all the agricultural sector and the country as well.

Looking for some suitable and practical solutions for these shortcomings there is an urgent need to carry out a detailed study of the behaviour of this sector in each country. At the moment it is almost impossible to obtain the information required to design special national policies in order to help in the development of the sector.

Nevertheless there are some measures which can be taken to overcome the problems of this sector in southcone countries of South America. These should include some special projects with national and international financial support in which the following aspects would be worthwhile to include:-

  1. Help for the development of an organisation of small milk producers all over the country and the formation of collecting centres or small or medium-sized processing units to make traditional dairy products and encourage distribution and marketing of these products.

  2. To create a properly functioning chain of markets especially for traditional milk products to which all the small dairy units could send their products.

  3. To create a technical specialized organisation to help farmers and dairy processors, through the provision of special courses at an applied and practical level and to provide technical assistance to them at their own place of production.

  4. To help farmers to be more efficient in quantitative (yield) and quality aspects of milk production probably through the training of dairy workers with self-teaching courses, T.V. courses, etc. and technical assistance to the dairy farm. Not only hygienic milk production, but also cow feeding matters, etc. should be included in this tuition. Farm organization, financial management, marketing aspects, etc. should be included in order to improve the general management of dairy farms and make the farms economically efficient.

  5. It is necessary to have practical courses in cheese production and processing methods for other dairy products to improve product quality and uniformity.

  6. National economic policies should be encouraged by the Governments through the establishment of special credit, tax, etc. to this sector. Through suitable policies the organisation representing small producers could invest in milking equipment and dairy processing requirements for the small dairy sector.

  7. Help to improve or develop national standards to regulate small processing units in respect of equipment, processing methods, marketing etc. in order to ensure the public health safety of traditional dairy products.

The future of traditional dairy products looks as if it could be very promising if national government and international aid was given to this agricultural sector.

A good future for this sector can be seen, if small producers organizations are established and some economical and technical help is given to them to improve all the steps involved in their activities. The consequence of such assistance could be improved raw milk supply and dairy product quality and a change of consumers' opinion about health risks with those products resulting finally in high profits for the dairy producers and a supply of nutritious and safe dairy products for the national populations of these countries.

In considering improvements, one of the main problems is the limited information about this sector in every southcone country. General statistics about the traditional dairy sector and even the industrial one in many countries are only estimates. There are no statistics about traditional processing units in any country, even the exporter countries. There are only statistics about authorized cheesemakers in Chile, but not the total dairy processing units e.g. producers of sweetened condensed milk and non-authorized cheesemakers are not included.

It is essential to evaluate this sector in each country in order to develop policies appropriate to the potential of each country.


There are many limiting factors for the expansion and development of milk production from cows, sheep and goats. Sheep are considered as the main source of milk in Syria, and this source is concentrated in the steppe and the feed base there depends upon the climatic conditions. Unfortunately the steppe does not have the capacity to support the present number of sheep and consequently overgrazing has led to deterioration of the feed base in the steppe area, so the nutritive requirements for both maintenance and production cannot be met and this has lead to a decline in milk production.

Another factor limiting the expansion and development of milk production from sheep is the seasonally dictated need to move flocks in the steppe during the lactation period.

This in particular has very limiting implications for the collection and processing and storage of good quality milk and to a lesser extent for the quality of milk products.

In the dairy cattle sector, the national lactational average of milk production per cow is considered to be low in comparison with the average of the exotic cows. This is due to nutritional deficiencies for animals of this type because sometimes the country is deficient in feedstuffs supplies especially green fodder and protein feed. The genetic potential of the local cattle breeds limits milk production, so genetic improvement programmes should be carried out in order to increase the yields of these breeds.

The co-operative movement in the dairy sector does not have the proper structure to have the dynamic role needed to advance the dairy industry. All these factors affect the milk production from dairy cattle in Syria.

Regarding goats, until now they have been raised by the farmers who do cropping besides having a few animals (sheep and goats) and they do not give them the attention required so the amount of milk yields are very low. Government has no specialised centres for milk production from goats; this aspect should be given major attention in order to increase milk production.

The main limiting factor affecting production of milk and its products are price policies which have a negative impact on production, as result of which a great proportion of farmers or producers prefer to sell their own products in the markets rather than selling their milk to the governmental factories, for processing.

The administrative structure sometimes plays a negative role in this field.

Concerning milking conditions and hygiene, it has been mentioned that the main producer of milk is the private sector which contributes about 98 per cent of the total milk supply. The milk and its products produced by the private sector are sold in the markets without any sanitary control and do not conform to any specific standards of hygiene and quality. The private producers use very simple methods for milk production and do not follow the hygienic procedures. Milk quality in terms of bacterial contamination is not considered important in the milk market. There is a great demand for milk regardless of its quality and therefore there is little incentive to improve quality.

Government and private factories use very simple methods to process milk into different products. Packaging is considered a limiting factor for milk processing.

Extension services are not playing their planned role regarding milk processing extension and they should teach the farmers how to process and sell their milk suply economically. Also, the country is lacking in laws related to the composition and hygiene of milk. These aspects affect the milk processing sector.

Technologies followed for the production of yoghurt, cheese and ghee are considered to be traditional at the level of villages and individual herds and flocks.

To improve the dairy industry in Syria the following could be implemented:-

  1. The expansion of milk production from dairy cows must be based on promotion of forage production for both private and governmental sectors and/or the use of locally-produced industrial by-products and agricultural residues in animal feeding.

  2. Improvement of genetic resources of the local cattle breeds by selection and by up-grading these breeds by crossing with high yielding exotic cattle.

  3. Establishment of specialized goat milk farms for governmental and private sectors.

  4. Expansion and promotion of the extension services to teach the farmers about the dairy industry, regarding production, processing and marketing.

  5. Grazing management in the steppe area, and support for the flocks there from feed produced in the governmental farms in order to preserve the feed base in the steppe.

  6. Establishment of sedentary flocks (by settled bedouins) in the steppe area in order to facilitate the distribution of feedstuffs and the collection of milk.

  7. Developing quality control measures and state legislation and laws for the quality and sanitary control of milk and its products.

  8. Developing of village processing units for production of different milk products with low unit costs and using cheap packaging.

  9. Marketing should be studied in order to identify realistic solutions for the aspects related to milk products marketing.

  10. Improving the hygienic milk production practices of the nomadic people in the steppe through training at the basic level and the contribution of extension services in their training.

  11. Refrigerated mobile units and the use of the solar energy coolers for milk storage and processing under steppe conditions in order to ensure high quality products.

  12. Promotion of an artificial insemination plan in Syria.

  13. Animal health programmes involving different services such as vaccination, disease treatment by drenching, dipping and spraying with an integration of training of the farmers in the basic elements of the flock/herd health management.

  14. Promotion of the co-operative movement's role in the planning and implementation, and servicing the farmers, to produce more milk.

  15. Encouraging the private sector to establish more dairy farms by giving loans for the infrastructure needed for this purpose.

The future for traditional milk products. The consumption of traditional milk products is increasing due to growth of the population, and to peoples' demand and their awareness of the nutritional importance of these products in their diet.

Traditional milk products will remain in the future but the technologies for producing them will change into modern technologies resulting in higher yield and better product quality.



Strengths and weaknesses. The major strength of the traditional dairy product sector is the mass appeal of such a wide variety of products. The market for these products far exceeds the market for western dairy products like milk powder, table butter and cheese. The operating margins in traditional products are also much higher than those for the western dairy products as is evident from Table 33. It can be safely stated that the increased demand for these products by the consumers, presents a great opportunity for the dairyman in these countries.

Table 33. Raw material cost as a percentage of the sale price
ProductRaw material cost as percentage of sale price
Market milk (bulk vended)90
Market milk (packaged)80
Milk powder/butter70

The major weakness of the sector is the lack of hygiene in the preparation and handling of traditional products and their short shelf-life. Ghee is an exception, where traditional ghee seems to have a longer shelf-life than the organised sector's ghee. The preparation and marketing of these products is generally done by the halwais and that limits the expansion of the sector.

There is a general lack of literature, data on production and marketing and standard specifications for production and quality control. The halwai's trade is generally looked down upon in the society and there is therefore no glamour attached to further work in that area. That limits the opportunities that are available to explore, modernise and expand the production and marketing of these products. Some of these products are very fragile and delicate to process and handle, their preparation requires a great deal of manual skills. The overall standards of hygiene and manual handling need to be improved. Lack of suitable packaging materials and techniques for the packaging of these products, is another constraint that needs to be overcome.

Modernisation of the traditional sector. The business opportunities provided by these products call for a thorough study of the sector with a view to exploit these opportunities for paying more to the milk producers and encourage increased milk production. It also provides a great opportunity for the marketing of hygienically prepared and properly packed products to a large population that has so far been used to unhygienically produced products.

The method of preparation of these products by the traditional methods needs to be studied and well documented on a scientific basis. The technological parameters, the biochemical changes and the keeping quality of these products should be further researched, with a view to developing the unit processes required for the large scale manufacture of these products. Some of the food processing methods available in the developed countries can be usefully exploited to manufacture these products. Some process modifications, may however, become necessary.

The Bureau of Indian Standards has now worked out standard specifications for the quality of khoa, shrikhand, burfi, rasogollas and gulabjamuns. This is encouraging and the quality standards should be specified for all the important traditional products.

Research efforts need to be intensified for developing standard methods of processing, manufacturing and packaging these products on a large scale so that the dairy industry can benefit from the higher operating margins that these products provide.

Future for traditional dairy products. The high value that the consumers attach to these products is a guarantee that will ensure the future growth and modernisation of traditional dairy products. The many advances that dairy technology has made will provide the tools to further explore and improve upon the quality and shelf-life of these time-tested products. The advent of convenience foods and their increased acceptability in the region will further support the modernisation of this sector.


There are practically no organized marketing centres for traditional milk products in these countries. The marketing channel is unorganized and without any rules and regulations. There may be some rules and regulations, but they are not applied.

In Nepal, the marketing channel for ghee is more or less organized. The role of different categories of personnel involved in ghee marketing is well defined already. There is however no control of quality of ghee. Similarly, with other traditional milk products. Khoa, chhana, panir, shergum and country butter have no quality control. The lack of any guarantee from the government of the quality of traditional products is the reason for a lower price of the products. In the traditional way, curd (dahi) is sold in an open earthenware pot. If this method of package is used to transport dahi over long distances then all kinds of atmospheric contamination may occur. Khoa and soft cheese are often left in a shop in open containers thereby attracting a lot of files. Traditional milk products are prepared under unhygienic conditions. Cleaning and washing of equipment and milking animals are seldom done. Hygienic conditions are poor in most of the stages involved, from milk production to the sale of final products.

There are many constraining factors in the production of traditional milk products. The main problems are listed as below:-

  1. lack of hygiene measures in milk production and in the preparation of traditional milk products.

  2. Inadequate technical support services.

  3. Marketing and distribution difficulties and lack of organisation.

  4. Pricing policy.

  5. Poor infrastructure.

  6. Lack of funds.

  7. Inadequate production of raw material in suitable areas and the fact that many of the farmers and animals are in scattered locations.

Dairy development is essentially a process of collecting raw material and after adding value by processing, selling it to consumers at reasonable rates. While considering the development of traditional milk products in Nepal and Bhutan or the Himalayan area we have to take into account the demand and supply side of the products. With respect to demand the rate of increase in population and income should be considered. There is an effective and increasing demand for milk and milk products. Due to the perishable nature of the raw material, and the shortage of facilities new varieties of products cannot be introduced in the present conditions. Non-perishable versions of traditional products should be researched and introduced commercially.

In order to improve the quality of traditional milk products the following suggestions may be considered:-

  1. Training for hygienic milk production should be given to farmers at farm gate level.

  2. Dairy Technical Support Services should be provided.

  3. Marketing of traditional milk products should be channelised through identified institutions.

  4. Improved breeds of animal should be introduced or given to farmers.

  5. As many farmers live in scattered areas and under poor conditions, a cooperative society or small farmers' association should be formed to organise milk transport to markets.

  6. The quality of products should be improved.

  7. A package of policies is needed to harmonise the prices of various inputs.

  8. A locally-relevant research and development plan with special attention to appropriate technology is needed.

  9. Ghee grading, and specifications, should be fixed by establishing ghee refinery factories and laboratories to raise quality to export standards to third countries.

  10. There may be many other varieties of traditional milk products undiscovered in the Himalayan areas. Therefore it is suggested that a team of experts from F.A.O. should be formed to make the further investigation of the traditional milk products more detailed in the Himalayan area particularly, Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan and the alpine region of India.

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