The bright future and hindering challenges of the dairy sector in Uganda

14-05-2018

Findings of Agriterra intern Marije Wilting, who is currently doing research on how to improve the milk quality of Ugandan dairy farmers

For my internship for Agriterra, I am doing research for the TIDE-project (The Inclusive Dairy Enterprise), a partner program with SNV, whose goal is to improve the dairy sector in South-West Uganda. Every month, we have a whole-day-meeting of the TIDE program and these meetings show that the program is really successful, as milk production and investments are increasing at fast pace and milk export has started. With Agriterra and SNV, we work with many stakeholders of the dairy sector, including the government and research institutes. Everyone participating in this project is very motivated and positive about the possibilities of the dairy sector here in Uganda, which is very inspiring.  

Analysing the milk quality

For my research on improving the milk quality, I visit farms and analyse the milk of individual farmers. So far, I have been visiting thirty farmers and it is always an adventure. I really enjoy that every day something unexpected happens. Also, some farmers are very kind and hospitable and we get really pampered. The analysis of the milk is very important, because some farmers are adding for example water to their milk to increase the volume. Also, the components of the milk really differ per farmer and if Uganda wants to increase their export, the quality of the milk needs to increase.

 

In the last month, I haven’t been visiting farmers anymore. Besides analysing the data and writing my research report,  I was very busy with attending meetings and discussing my research findings with colleagues. Also, I was very busy with Excel, because I have made a tool to analyse milk quality and now I have started to teach cooperatives how to handle the tool. This tool can really improve the cooperatives management, because it shows their records of production in total and the quality of the production. Also, the cooperatives can see now the production or quality from every farmer individually and therefore are able to  tackle the problems on the farm level. This development is a big step forward and my biggest hope is that the cooperatives will embrace this tool. So far, I have presented it to twenty cooperatives and explained it to two cooperatives in person. Now, more follow-up is necessary and I am curious if they will take it up.

Challenges in the Ugandan dairy sector

Besides this prosperous outlook, I have learned a lot about the challenges that farmers are facing in Uganda during my farm visits, which I also want to share with you.

These are my main findings:

  • The critical level of feed shortage during the dry season. I was really surprised when I found out that cows even starve during droughts.
  • Paddocking (verschillende weides maken) is very difficult, because pawls are very expensive and eaten by termites. Everywhere in the land you see termite mounds, so this really is a big problem.
  • Cows suffer a lot from ticks. Farmers spray against ticks, but the ticks become resistant to the sprays. I have met a farmer, who used already ten different sprays and now there is no other option left for him than spraying twice per week. However, it won’t take long until this is not sufficient any more. Also, the acaricides used against ticks are really polluting the environment and thus have a detrimental effect for the biodiversity.
  • Insufficient milk cooling. A big farmer is milking for example from 5 to 9 AM, which means that the milk, with about 28-30 degrees, is outside for 4 hours and then still needs to be transported. So before it reaches the cooperative, some of the milk is in a high temperature for 5 hours, although it should be cooled directly after the milking process. 
  • Fluctuating milk prices are also a problem. In the dry season farmers can get around 975 Shillings, while in the wet season, when milk production increases, farmers get paid only 500 Shillings sometimes.

 

Marije Wilting, intern Agriterra

 


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