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Dairy production in Cameroon: Growth, development, problems and solutions

Review of dairy production
Constraints to dairy production
Integrating the dairy sector in rural development activities
Designing and implementing a community dairy project

E.N. Tambi

The author is Assistant Chief of the Institute of Animal Research, Bambui, PO Box 80, Bamenda, Cameroon.

Compared with an average of 210 kg in the developed countries, milk consumption per caput in Cameroon is approximately 10 kg, while per caput production is only 5.11 kg. Since the difference in consumption is made up by dairy imports, which are continually increasing, special attention needs to be given to developing dairy production in the country.

Holstein-Friesian and Jersey cattle were brought from the United States in 1974, 1976 and 1981, and cross-breeding took place with the local zebu (White and Red Fulani). Although some 87 pure-bred and cross-bred cattle were distributed to farmers and missions by 1982, dairying is still only carried out on a small scale.

A coordinated development strategy is needed for the dairy industry to remove constraints to rural producers, ensure remunerative prices for products and promote cooperatives to integrate milk production processing and marketing within rural development.

The problem of fresh milk production and consumption in most developing countries remains acute. Low levels of production, the low purchasing power of most populations, low levels of education, differences in tastes and preferences for particular foods and in social and cultural values all combine to limit the consumption of milk or other protein-rich foods in these countries. The FAO estimate in 1983 for the world's per caput consumption of dairy products was an average of 80 kg of liquid milk equivalent. In the developed countries, per caput consumption averaged 210 kg while in the developing countries it was as low as 30 kg. In the developing countries, the highest per caput consumption was in the southern part of Latin America; in most African countries south of the Sahara it was extremely low and in some countries less than 10 kg.

1. Dairy cattle imports, 1957-81

Importations de bovine laitiers, 1957-1981

Importaciones de vacunos lecheros, 1957-81


Country of origin

Centre of operation


Form of import

Number imported


Germany, Fed. Rep







ENSA Nkolbison

Brown Swiss








200 doses














50 doses

















250 doses




250 doses
















Sources: Atekwana, 1976; Annual reports of the Institute of Animal Research, Bambui, in 1976 and subsequent years.

2. Performance of local, exotic and cross-bred dairy cattle

Performances des bovine laitiers indigènes, exotiques et croisés

Rendimiento de los vacunos lecheros autóctonos, exóticos y mestizos


Calving rate 1 (%)

Age at 1st calving (days)

Calving interval (days)

Lactation length (days)

Milk yield (l)

Milk yield/cow/day (l)

Mortality to 36 months of age 2



940 ±165

383 ±101

282.9 ±38.4

3430.8 ±665.0


35.9 (43) 3

n = 9

n = 33

H x G (F1)


811 ±197

399 ±91

256.3 ±69.3

1 524.3 ±866.0


11.8 (11)

n = 7

n = 14

M x G (F1)


1 133 ±133

397 ±112

238.0 ±69.3

1 604.6 ±698.1


12.9 (30)

n = 15

n = 33



1 190 ±160

394 ±98

223.5 ±79.2

1 016.2 ±474.4



n = 17

n = 26





167.6 ±88.4

483.0 ±429.5


4.3 (66)

Source: Mbah, Mbakwa & Ngipdjo. 1983-84.

Note: H = Holstein; H x G = Holstein x Gudali M x G = Montbéliard x Gudali, G - Gudali

1 Data from July 1977 to June 1983 (Gudali data are for 1977-1981).
2 Date from July 1977 to June 1983 (July 1979 to June 1982 for M X G)
3 Number of dead animals UT parentheses.

Cameroon falls within those countries with the lowest per caput milk production and consumption. In 1985-86, total domestic dairy production in Cameroon was estimated at 50 000 tonnes, i.e. 10 500 tonnes in meat equivalent (ME), giving an annual per caput production of 5.11 kg or 1.07 kg ME (Sixth Five-Year Development Plan, 1986-91). Milk consumption estimates provided by Von Massow (1984) show a per caput consumption of 10 kg in Cameroon, which is twice the per caput domestic production. The difference in consumption, however, is met by increased dairy imports. In 1981, for example, the Government of Cameroon spent approximately 1 percent of its export revenues on dairy imports to meet 51 percent: of its total domestic consumption (don Massow, 1984). Between 1981-82 and 1984-85, total dairy imports into Cameroon increased at an average annual rate of 19.8 percent (the author's calculations based on the Sixth Five-Year Development Plan, 1986-91). With an estimated self-sufficiency rate (domestic production to total consumption) of only 54 percent (don Massow, 1984), it is unlikely that this rate of growth of dairy imports will decrease in the near future. If Cameroon is to reduce imports of dairy products, efforts must be made to raise domestic production to match consumption.

Using 1984-85 as the base year and with an average annual growth rate of 4.5 percent, the Sixth Five-Year Development Plan projected a total domestic milk production of 12 460 tonnes by 1988-89 and 13 610 tonnes by 1990-91. With the present low level of domestic production and high imports, special attention must be given to the problems of domestic milk production and processing and to a new strategy for developing the dairy industry devised in such a way that its growth and development contribute to national development.

Review of dairy production

Dairy production in Cameroon is a relatively recent development. The literature indicates that the first dairy enterprise in Cameroon started in the 1930s with the introduction of the German Brown cattle at the Buea Upper Farms (Atekwana and Maximuangu, 1981). These cattle were successfully exploited for their milk potential but at the end of the Second World War when the Cameroon Development Corporation (CDC) and the Department of Prisons and Corrections (DPC) took over the operations, they were replaced with Friesian cattle and an Austrian breed (Pinzgauer). While the DPC was successfully exploiting the Pinzgauer cattle in Buea, semen of the Montbéliard breed was introduced through the Compagnie pastorale Project (CPP) for crossbreeding of dairy cattle in Dschang and at the Jakiri veterinary station. For reasons not well understood, these animals were later eliminated but the Jakiri station remained in operation mainly to collect and process milk from nearby Fulani herders into cream and butter which were then sold in Jakiri and Bamenda.

Prior to the activities of the Jakiri station, a dairy cooperative factory had been set up in Nkambe in the 1950s. It required each Fulani farmer to contribute one Mbororo cow to the dairy scheme for the production of milk and processing of butter and clarified butter for local consumption in Nkambe and other towns in former West Cameroon. In addition to the Nkambe dairy cooperative, another dairy factory was established at Koutoupit in the Upper Noun Division of the Western Province to process milk produced by Fulani herders who had settled in the region.

A report by Njwe (1984) indicates that in 1964 a dairy scheme was initiated at the Bambui Experimental Station with old equipment (mainly milk separators and churns) recovered from the defunct Nkambe factory. The milk separators were placed at strategic points in the Wum area where Aku women brought milk for separation. Skim milk from these separators was returned to the women for sale in local markets while the cream was purchased and transported to Bambui weekly for factory processing into butter. The final product was then sold in most towns of former West Cameroon. Although this project was discontinued after some time, the Wum Area Development Authority (WADA) re-established dairy operations by organizing the Wum cooperative cheese scheme to continue the processing of milk produced by Aku cattle owners. With high and low production of milk during the wet and dry seasons respectively, this scheme only operated on a seasonal basis. Thus, the cooperative's supply of marketable cheese was plentiful in the wet season, and scarce in the dry season.

In 1967 and prior to WADA's dairy scheme, some 12 Brown Swiss heifers (see Table 1) were imported for cross-breeding with N'Dama cattle at the Federal Advanced School of Agriculture (École normale supérieure d'agriculture [ENSA], Nkolbison) of the Dschang University Centre. Some of these N'Dama x Brown Swiss cattle still remain in Nkolbison where they are used for practical teaching of students.

In 1969, researchers of the Institut d'élevage et de médecine vétérinaire des pays tropicaux (IEMVT), now the Institute of Animal Research (IAR), experimented with the local White and Red Fulani cattle in Bambui and Nkambe. Their poor average daily milk production of 3 litres for a lactation of 200 days showed that the exploitation of these animals as milk producers was not economical. At Wakwa in 1975-76, similar trials were made with the local Gudali cattle. Their low output level of 483 litres for a lactation period of 167 days meant that the Gudali cattle were not suited for commercial dairy production. The researchers, therefore, imported Montbéliard semen that was used for artificial insemination (AI) of Gudali cattle. Although the purpose of AI was not to produce dairy cattle as such, the resulting progeny were, however, milked. Their relatively high production level of 1 604 litres for a lactation period of 239 days indicated possible use for dairy production.

In 1974, 22 Holstein-Friesian and Jersey cattle were imported (see Table 1) from the United States through Heifer Project International (HPI). The main objectives were to study their adaptability to the Cameroon environment, improve the local breed through crossbreeding and increase milk production. In 1976 and 1981 respectively, 22 and 79 additional Holstein and Jersey heifers were imported from the United States. During this period cross-breeding activities were initiated between the local zebu (White and Red Fulani) and the exotic strain of dairy cattle.

Rotational grazing of dairy cattle at the Institute of Animal Research farm, Bambui. Pastures consist of Brachiaria ruziziensis. Kikuyu grass and stylosanthes - Pacage en rotation du bétail laitier à l'institut de recherche zootechnique de Bambui. Les pâturages sont composés de Brachiaria ruziziensis, de kikuyu et de stylosanthes - Pastoreo rotativo de vacunos lecheros en la finca del Instituto de Investigaciones Zootécnicas de Bambui. Los pastos están formados por Brachiaria ruziziensis, hierba kikuyu y alfalfa brasileña

Handmilking of White Fulani, a zebu breed of cattle. Their milk yield averages only 3 l/cow/day under the tropical conditions of Bambui - Traite à la main de zébus de race Peule blanche. Leur rendement laitier n'est en moyenne que de 3 litres/vache/jour dans les conditions tropicales de Bambui - Ordeño a mano de un cebú Fulani blanco, una raza de vacunos. Su producción de leche alcanza sólo un promedio de 3 l/vaca/día en las condiciones tropicales de Bambui

Pure- and cross-bred dairy cattle grazing on improved pastures - Bétail laitier, de race pure et croisée, en train de brouter sur des pâturages améliorés - Vacunos lecheros de raza para y mestizos en pastos mejorado

Concentrate supplementation of dairy cattle grazing on improved pastures of Brachiaria ruziziensis at the Institute of Animal Research Bambui - Supplément concentré pour le bétail laitier, occupé à brouter sur des pâturages améliorés de Brachiaria ruziziensis, à l'institut de recherche zootechnique de Bambui - Suplemento de piensos concentrados para vacunos lecheros que se alimentan de pastos mejorados de Brachiaria ruziziensis en el Instituto de Investigaciones Zootécnicas de Bambui

Machine milking of the Jersey x White Fulani cross dairy cattle at the Institute of Animal Research, Bambui - Traite à la machine de bétail laitier croisé Jersey x Peul blanc à l'institut de recherche zootechnique de Bambui - Ordeño mecánico de vacas lecheras mestizas Jersey x Fulani blanca en el Instituto de Investigaciones Zootécnicas de Bambui

In 1978, a small number of pure-bred and cross-bred dairy cows were distributed to farmers who successfully completed a three-month's training course in dairy production. Major distribution began in 1978, and by January 1982 approximately 20 farmers and six missions had received 87 pure-bred and cross-bred dairy animals in the North West Province, with considerably fewer in the Adamawa Province. In 1980, the dairy farmers established a cooperative known as the Bamenda Dairy Cooperative Society (BDCS). The Institute of Animal Research sold raw milk from the farmers' and research station herds door-to-door in Bamenda until June 1983. At that point, the Institute began pasteurizing the milk and selling it in 0.5-litre cartons through retail outlets in the Bamenda area. Today, the Institute sells pasteurized milk through a network of 20 to 24 retail stores located in Bamenda, while non-pasteurized milk is sold in Ngaoundere by the Institute of Animal Research, Wakwa.

The above review of the dairy sector in Cameroon shows that despite several attempts to develop the sector by improving local breeds, dairying is still being conducted on a small-scale experimental level and has not reached a stage comparable to that in developed countries. It is necessary to understand the major problems encountered in dairying in Cameroon.

As Cameroon strives to feed its growing population, production of high-protein foods, such as milk, becomes an essential part of the exercise. Studies by White and Meadows (1981), Wagenaar-Brouwer (1984) and d'Ieteren (1987) have demonstrated the contribution of milk to nutrition in the diets of rural populations and to income in rural family budgets. Since dairy products are one of Cameroon's strategic commodities, the problems of dairy production need to be redressed. Furthermore, reinforcing the traditional dairy sector as an alternative or complement to the development of commercial meat production among pastoralists has great potential to improve rural welfare and meet the high demand for dairy products in Cameroon. The work of Brumby and Gryseels (1984) on milk production in milk-deficit countries of Africa and Asia has shown that this is possible.

Constraints to dairy production

The future of any dairy operation depends on a successful programme that emphasizes efficient and cost-effective methods of production. This implies that factors that directly or indirectly increase production cost and/or reduce output must be minimized. One major constraint to dairy production in Cameroon is the general practice of extensive cattle rearing where normally cattle graze on low-quality unmanaged pastures. Animal productivity (milk yield and weight gain) is low not only because of the low nutritive value of the local pastures, but also because of uncontrolled stocking rates that result in over- and undergrazing Where there is overgrazing, the natural vegetation is destroyed. This results in-little or no regrowth and, consequently, no green pasture for cattle. In cases of undergrazing a build-up of material of low nutritive quality occurs and shading reduces the photosynthetic process, giving rise to conditions that encourage proliferation of pests and diseases. Forage production per unit area and forage quality then become reduced and such forage is nutritionally deficient for grazing animals.

Dairy (and beef) cattle require more than 30 nutrients which are essential equally for maintenance, growth, reproduction and lactation. The presence of these nutrients can be estimated fairly accurately by the quality of the feedstuff and, where deficient, can be corrected by supplementation or management. With intensive herd management, deficient nutrients such as those providing energy, protein, minerals or vitamins can be supplied by forage and supplements of adequate quality to produce acceptable gains in milk yield and weight gain (National Research Council, 1971; Bath et al., 1978; Ranjhan, 1981). Miller and Dickinson (1968) and Miller (1969) have shown that management practices related to feeding, particularly amounts of concentrate, and reproductive efficiency (percentage days in milk) have the greatest value in predicting herd average milk production and are the most important characteristics common to higher producing herds. McCullough (1969), Verité and Journet (1971), Ekern and Sundstol (1974), Ekern, Save and Vik-Mo (1975) and Wilkinson (1983) have also shown that intensive feeding of ensiled forages and hay, containing appropriate grain and protein requirements and fed free choice, increases and/or maintains milk production at a higher level by providing the opportunity for animals to be fed the conserved products with minimal loss of nutrients during periods of inadequate forage supplies.

Research results obtained at the Institute of Animal Research, Bambui have shown that milk yield and weight gain from unmanaged local pastures are inferior (6.67 l/cow/day and 248 g/cow/day) to those obtained from improved and well-managed pastures (9.49 l/cow/day and 437 g/cow/day) respectively. It was also shown that milk yield and weight gain can be increased cheaply by feeding energy-sufficient diets based on conserved forages and supplemented with concentrate rations (Kamga, Tambi and Kamga, 1987). The limiting factor, however, is not only the extensive use of low-quality pastures without supplementation by most dairy farmers, but also the fact that little is known in Cameroon about optimal feeding levels and balance of feed types, and about the relationship between increased levels of feeding and increased milk yields.

Increased milk output also depends on the genetic potential of the cow. As efforts are made to improve the productivity of cattle for milk production, it becomes increasingly clear that the genetic potential of many local breeds is extremely limited. Genetic progress in cattle is slow, and with the increasing demand for high-quality protein foods by the population, cattle breeders must intensify their efforts to develop a highly efficient milk-beef herd. The feasibility of this, however, depends on the genetic merits of dairy animals and the extent to which efficiency in breeding can be achieved.

Measures of breeding efficiency include calving interval and age at first calving, although they are not the only measures of herd performance. Speicher and Meadows (1967) consider a calving interval of 12 months (365 days), rather than longer, to be desirable and economically justified in terms of greater return over feed cost. McDowell (1971) considers the following factors adequate for successful dairying: a calving interval between lactations of less than 450 days; an excess of 200 days in lactation; less than 30 percent female mortality; and proper management.

Among the major disadvantages of dairy production in Cameroon are: late sexual maturity (age at first calving), long calving intervals and short lactation lengths for the local zebu (White and Red Fulani); and high mortality rates for the pure exotic breeds (Holstein-Friesians and Jerseys). Contrasting with the performance of European and American breeds kept in temperate climates, crossbreeds between the exotics and local zebus have frequently shown a relatively low productive and reproductive efficiency under tropical conditions (Lemka et al., 1973).

Studies conducted at the Institute of Animal Research, Wakwa, show that apart from their high mortality rates (35.9 percent), the Holstein-Friesians perform relatively better under tropical conditions than the local Gudalis. Their milk production averages 3 431 litres for a lactation period of 283 days (12.1 l/day) and their calving interval of 383 days and age at first calving of 940 days are relatively shorter than those of the local Gudalis. The cross-brads (Holstein x Gudali) have a relatively lower mortality rate (11.8 percent) and their milk production averages 1 524 litres for a lactation period of 256 days (5.9 l/day) while the local Gudalis have a low mortality rate of 4.3 percent and an average milk production of 483 litres for a lactation period of 168 days (2.9 l/day), (see Table 2).

Similar studies carried out at the Institute of Animal Research, Bambui, on the performance of Holstein-Friesian cross-brads (Holstein-Friesian x Red Fulani) and local Red Fulani also show that under tropical conditions the Holstein-Friesians produce more milk 3 361 litres for a lactation period of 319 days (10.5 l/day) but have a longer calving interval (472 days) and a relatively higher mortality rate (12.7 percent) compared with the crosses, which produce 1 501 litres for a lactation period of 221 days (6.8 l/day), and have a calving interval of 403 days and a mortality rate of 6.8 percent. For the Red Fulani, milk yield averages 330 litres for a lactation period of only 114 days, i.e. 2.9 l/day (Mbah, Mbanya and Messine, 1984).

Although the performance of the exotic breeds and their crosses is partly influenced by environmental conditions, their overall milk production is superior to that of the local Gudalis and White and Red Fulani. However, milk production in Cameroon is not only limited by the poor performance of the local breeds but also by the shortage of highly productive exotic and/or cross-bred animals. Table 1 gives the number of exotic dairy cattle imported into Cameroon from 1957 to 1981. Between 1974 and 1981, the total number of dairy cattle imported into Cameroon for cross-breeding and eventual distribution to farmers was 123. Data on total numbers of dairy cattle available in the country are totally lacking but between 1978 and 1982 only about 20 farmers and six missions had received some 87 pure-bred and cross-bred dairy cattle in the North West Province. This is rather low for any country striving to increase its domestic milk production.

Apart from the limited numbers of highly productive dairy animals, there is also the problem of inadequate incentives to dairy farmers. The incentive to increase milk production is determined in large measure by the price of milk. In Cameroon fluid milk produced locally sells at a government-administered price of CFAF210/litre, which is about 50 percent below the production cost of CFAF406/litre (Goldman and Pingpoh, 1984). In comparing the domestic retail prices of milk products in Zimbabwe, Jensen (1982) also found the actual retail price of milk products to be less than half (41 percent) the border price and that these low prices constituted a consumer subsidy financed from government loans through the Dairy Marketing Board. Although most governments in developing countries keep dairy product prices below cost and the world market price in order to encourage urban consumption, this often acts as a disincentive to increasing production in the absence of a producer subsidy. In a survey on the feasibility of the expansion of dairying in Pakistan, the World Bank underlined the importance of higher dairy prices in increasing production. The survey showed that the Government of Pakistan had to allow a 20 percent increase in farm milk prices to encourage farmers to invest in the inputs required for increasing milk production (McDowell, 1977).

Several authors have reported on the positive effects of higher milk prices on milk production (Chen, Courtney and Schmitz, 1972; Buckwell, 1984; Rodriguez, 1987). In analysing the impact of the milk pricing policy in Zimbabwe, Rodriguez (1987) derived a short-term milk price elasticity of 0.63 which meant that a 10 percent increase in milk price would increase milk output by 6.3 percent. The estimates also show that about 61 percent of the rise in output, due to a milk price change, can be attributed to milk yield response. In addition to the positive effects of higher milk prices on milk production, producer subsidies constitute another way of increasing milk output by stimulating dairy producers to attain higher production and output levels through the use of more labour and capital inputs.

Quality control of milk for laboratory processing of dairy products - Contrôle de la qualité du lait pour le traitement en laboratoire des produits laitiers - Control de calidad de la leche para la elaboración en laboratorio de productos lácteos

Manufacture of dairy products (cheese, butter, ice-cream, yoghurt). Note machine separation of cream from butter - Fabrication de produits laitiers (fromage, bourre, crème glacée, yaourt). Notez que la crème est séparée du beurre à la machine - Fabricación de productos lácteos (queso, mantequilla, helados, yogur). Obsérvese la separación a máquina de la nata de la mantequilla

Packaging of pasteurized fluid milk in 0.5-litre containers for marketing - Conditionnement de lait pasteurisé en conteneur d'un demi-litre pour la commercialisation - Envasado de leche liquida pasteurizada en recipientes de 0,5 litro para su comercialización

Preparing packaged pasteurized fluid milk-for delivery to urban retail outlets - Préparation et conditionnement de lait pasteurisé pour la vente au détail dans les villes - Preparación de leche liquida pasteurizada envasada para su distribución a los vendedores al por menor de las zonas urbanas

Another problem of milk production resulting from the low performance of dairy cattle is the inadequate supply of milk for processing and marketing. The Government of Cameroon has constructed two dairy processing plants at its Bambui and Wakwa animal research farms. The Bambui plant is equipped to pasteurize fluid milk and process butter, ice-cream and yoghurt, while the Wakwa plant is equipped to pasteurize fluid milk only. These plants each have a processing capacity of 5 000 litres of milk daily but are currently operating under capacity. A daily average of only 200 litres of milk is being processed at Bambui because of the shortage of milk supplied to the plant. Most of the milk for processing is expected to come from dairy farmers who belong to the Bamenda Dairy Cooperative Society. However, because of its small membership and low productivity per farmer, the cooperative can only supply a daily average of 80 litres of milk for pasteurization (according to the dairy records at the Institute of Animal Research, Bambui). The problem, therefore, is not only the low productivity of the animals, but also a dearth of farmers supplying large quantities of milk.

Several production problems create further constraints, such as relatively high costs of milk production, processing and transportation (Goldman and Pingpoh, 1984); high prices for concentrates and protein-rich meals; high levels of risk and uncertainty together with low anticipated returns from investments in dairy production (Tambi, 1985); inadequate infrastructure facilities; and lack of an organized milk distribution and marketing system.

If the country is to maintain a steady increase in total and per caput milk production and consumption, these problems must be solved. In particular, the number of dairy cattle, output per cow, calving rates and lactation lengths need to be increased while the ages at first calving and mortality rates need to be reduced. Intensification of dairy production through proper feeding, management, health, sanitation etc. also needs to be ensured.

Experimental trials with exotic dairy breeds (Holstein-Friesians and Jerseys) indicate that these animals produce at higher levels than local breeds (see Table 2). However, these high productivity animals are limited in number and only a few have apparently been imported exclusively for experimental purposes. It is uncertain whether further imports and/or cross-breeding for commercial purposes will be possible to make expansion economically feasible and whether adequate and proper feeds, management, health, processing and storage facilities as well as other resources will become available.

Further questions requiring further investigation are whether sufficient numbers of farmers have the farm size and production resources required for low-cost dairy production, and whether such operations can compete with beef production - an alternative to dairy production under existing conditions. Additionally, there is the issue of the huge dairy imports into the country. The economics of all these factors, however, will depend on the revenue-cost differential expected from dairy production; government credit, pricing and marketing policies; and on how effectively programmes for developing the dairy sector are planned and executed.

It is clear that no definite development pattern exists for the Cameroon dairy industry. Dairy production enterprises have come about only in response to the subsistence needs of farmers and the dairy industry has therefore remained relatively small. There are no dairy development schemes that supply fresh milk to the population because of the lack of a coordinated development strategy for the dairy industry.

In line with FAO's policy for dairy development in the least developed countries in order to improve the nutritional and social status of their rural populations (Jasiorowski, 1985), Cameroon must endeavour to operate dairy programmes within the framework of national development goals. Such programmes will need to ensure that constraints to small-scale rural milk producers are removed, that these producers receive remunerative prices for their products and are encouraged to work within cooperative organizations that integrate milk production, processing and marketing with other rural development activities.

Integrating the dairy sector in rural development activities

In the Fifth Five-Year Development Plan (1981-86), emphasis was placed on integrated rural development projects. It has therefore been possible to examine the relationship of the dairy sector with other sectors of the economy. As the objective of rural integration is to improve the nutrition and health of the rural population, the dairy sector must unquestionably be included in any investment in rural development projects.

The practical issues for structuring the dairy sector to assist in rural development must incorporate all the technical, physical, organizational, economic and social aspects of rural development, which should be consistent with the overall strategy for national development. As the ultimate goal is to improve rural welfare, policy decisions must be focused on public provision of incentives and services to dairy farmers. These require the provision of rural infrastructural facilities, input subsidization, farm credit, extension services, pricing and marketing control services. These measures are essential if national goals of self-sufficiency, foreign exchange conservation, rural employment, and increased farm incomes and welfare are to be achieved.

Developing the dairy sector to accomplish these goals involves two different but interrelated processes: the techno-economic transformation of the dairy sector and the socio-economic transformation of the rural environment within which dairy farmers operate. Dairy farmers in rural areas must have the technical knowledge and the productive resources and services to enable them to increase their incomes and improve their standard of living. There must therefore be an equitable distribution of productive resources, successive collectivization of all economic activities to the advantage of the dairy sector, linkage of the sector with other rural development programmes (such as rural health and nutrition programmes), the provision of social services in rural areas, and the provision of a more favourable policy framework in terms of exchange rate and positive terms of trade for dairy products.

If any one of the above elements is absent, the dual objectives of dairy development and rural development will not be achieved. However, the manner in which each of these elements is to be utilized requires its own approach and involves several issues that must be dealt with simultaneously.

Designing and implementing a community dairy project

If correctly conceived and implemented, a community dairy project will satisfy the needs and goals of the community it serves. It should aim to increase milk production, produce milk by-products (butter, cheese and yoghurt), increase rural employment and enhance rural economic growth. There may sometimes be significant conflicts between these goals and the project may face serious constraints in achieving even one of them. For example, severe difficulties may be encountered by small farmers, operating without appropriate inputs and techniques, in trying to produce sufficient milk for the community.

Some suggested guidelines in dealing with the issues involved in establishing community dairy projects are given below.

As regards the extent to which a rural dairy project can produce enough milk and dairy products to meet the community's needs, it is important to ascertain the demand and relate it to total output of milk; determine the quantity and type of resources available for dairy production; determine farmers' ability, using available resources efficiently, to produce milk and milk products; and examine the potential of existing pastures and health facilities to support increased levels of milk production.

When dealing with how a community dairy project could be integrated with other rural development projects to enhance national development it is important to assess the range of needs to be met by a comprehensive rural development programme that includes a dairy project as one of its integrated components. It is necessary to assess the degree of complementarily between the dairy component and other components; examine the changes that the community must make in its actual socioeconomic structure to meet future dairy requirements adequately and see how a rural development project could enable these changes to be made successfully; quantify the major advantages and disadvantages of integrating a dairy project with major rural development efforts; and determine whether an integrated rural development approach would attract more overall community and national resources and whether this approach would enable the dairy project to contribute to meeting community needs on a wider scale.

Recognizing that successful development of a community dairy project depends on the large-scale participation of the community is another important issue. Encouraging participation is partly a matter of providing adequate incentives or helping individuals to understand why their involvement is beneficial and necessary. It is important to consider the resources a project would require and those that local people would be willing to contribute; encourage dairy farmers to undertake commercial dairy production (utilizing available resources) for rural and urban markets; provide appropriate facilities and technologies for producing and processing milk into other preservable products such as butter, cheese and yoghurt; subsidize farmers for increased production to meet not only their own needs, but also those of urban residents; and finally, ensure a favourable price and marketing level for final products.

Traditional knowledge of milk production can also be efficiently utilized in a community dairy project by:

· studying dairy-related practices in villages and identifying useful knowledge and skills;

· working with local people so as to base project structure and technology on existing capabilities and social priorities;

· analysing the potential to apply existing technical skills to dairy-related matters;

· allowing for and encouraging expression and initiation on the part of villagers, especially women.

A community dairy project should focus to a certain extent on women as its prime target, in view of their general involvement and participation in dairying in most developing societies. In many rural communities, women play a principal role in all dairy-related activities - from milking to directing the sale and consumption of milk and milk products (Dupire, 1963). However, their economic contribution to society has generally been overlooked (Kerven, 1987; Oxby, 1983). It is thus important to determine the activities women undertake in all aspects of dairying (cattle feeding, milking, pasteurization, processing, distribution and marketing, conservation, consumption, etc.); determine the contributions they could make to planning a community dairy project; and assess women's special knowledge of the nutrition, health and breeding of dairy animals and their skills in processing and marketing dairy products.

Participation in community dairy projects takes several forms, according to the individuals involved. However, there are many constraints, especially when greater resources - time, money, land and water - are involved. General means for overcoming these constraints include determining the competition for labour and other resources coming from other groups and individuals; assessing the employment situation generally, together with social, economic and seasonal demands for specific work and demands from growing urban sectors; and lastly, assessing the hardships involved in dairy work and how far they deter participation.

An important characteristic of rural development projects is that they do not yield returns as soon as they begin. It is important to know how costs can be offset during the initial years by exploring the feasibility of government subsidies, loans, tax credits and alternative wage employment providing financial support to farmers until returns begin to accrue from the project; determining if any of these factors will offset the project's current costs and whether farmers can be compensated for the opportunity cost of resources shifted to dairy production during the project's early years; and investigating the use of highly productive dairy cattle breeds (exotic or local) that will give earlier economic returns, determining whether they are adapted to the community or what changes in traditional dairy practices they would require.

Even if production costs are offset during the initial years, it is still important to control costs to keep prices down for the urban and rural poor. Likely costs of milk production must be determined to see whether market prices will be beyond the reach of the poor and they must be subsequently reduced by reducing costs. It should be established whether government-subsidized milk production and distribution could reduce costs, whether laws regulating milk and dairy product prices could be more effectively enforced and what the relationship is between income levels and milk consumption in rural and urban areas (income elasticity of demand) and its implications on total consumption.

Finally, in setting up a successful community dairy project, it is essential to:

· initiate and encourage sustained self-reliance in milk production within the context of rural development;

· develop and test a methodology for integrating dairy production in rural development programmes;

· quantify community inputs and benefits to convince farmers that their labour will be adequately rewarded;

· reinforce the necessity of incentives to dairy farmers by encouraging local small-scale entrepreneurs to participate in dairy production projects (for example, provide market incentives such as guaranteed prices, subsidies, loans or tax credits); and

· take steps to ensure that farmers adopt simple dairy production and processing technologies commensurate with available capital and labour resources.


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