Gateway to dairy production and products

Social and gender issues

It is estimated that more than 750 million people around the world are engaged in milk production. The dairy sector provides more employment per unit of milk production in developing than in developed countries. This is mainly because developed countries have more technology-intensive and less labour-intensive production systems. In developing countries, market-oriented, small-scale dairy production creates on-farm jobs and increases farm income, as well as creating off-farm employment and income opportunities in milk collection, marketing and processing. In many developing countries, dairying provides higher returns to small-scale farmers than crops, and generates more employment opportunities than other food value chains.

In many rural communities, women traditionally have an important role in milk production – especially milking and feeding – and are also involved in the collection, processing and marketing of dairy products. Although much of their labour is non-monetized, women often decide the amount of milk to be sold and how to use the revenues generated from milk sales. The woman of the household generally uses milk money to buy food items, clothing and other necessities and to pay for children’s education and basic health care. However, women’s involvement in dairying generally declines as the activity becomes more important for household income.

In many societies, it is not culturally appropriate to sell milk and milk products. With modernization, these customs are being lost.

Did you know?

  • Small ruminants are generally owned by women.
  • In Ghana, the collection, processing and marketing of 20 litres of milk generate one on-farm job.