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Ethiopian cattle farmers join forces for improved milk quality

Food Security

Dawit Chebude and PUM expert Piet Boons have clearly opted for ‘strength through cooperation’. Under the leadership of these two inspirational dairy farmers, the Ethiopian dairy sector has been turned on its head, and quality today is more important than quantity.

“With just ten cows and limited experience, I was unable to make my dairy farm profitable, explains Dawit Chebude. While the Ethiopian entrepreneur sits back in his chair, he briefly explains the start of his career in the dairy industry. “I then purchased around 100 cows, in the hope of making my farm profitable, but at the end of the day I still failed to break even.” The newly fledged dairy farmer decided to call in the assistance of PUM, to improve the operational management of his milk production.

For a first advice mission, Piet Boons travelled to the Ethiopian capital city Addis Ababa. Together with Dawit, the PUM expert examined the production process, before advising the dairy farmer to reduce the number of cows by around twenty. Boon also advised the dairy farmer to offer his animals better feed (higher nutrient levels) and to improve the level of veterinary care. According to Dawit, the feeding, sleeping and milking areas for his cows are also more hygienic, today.

As the Ethiopian cattle farmer is showing his dairy shop, it was clear that the advice from Boon was bearing fruit. “Not only has milk production per cow risen considerably; the quality of the dairy products is also far better,” explained Dawit, presenting his products, with pride. “We are now also producing cheese and butter, and selling around 500 litres of milk every day to almost 50 restaurant businesses in Addis Ababa.” The entrepreneur was visibly grateful to Boons, and again emphasised that the PUM expert’s advice had been vital to the success of his business.

However, the ambitions of Dawit and Boons, now close friends, go beyond the single dairy farm. “Piet wanted to help other dairy farmers, too, something that I was dubious about in the beginning. However, according to his Ethiopian colleague, the Dutch farmer remained insistent, and succeeded in convincing him of the importance of starting a joint venture with other farmers. “By joining forces in a cooperative, we would be in a stronger position to guarantee the quality of our dairy produce.” Despite initial doubts among the small-scale farmers, the cooperative now has 36 members, and 50 other farmers have signed up to join.

As a result, the PUM advisor is now a linchpin in the Ethiopian dairy sector, and over the course of several advice missions has made a real contribution to animal farming and the milk industry. “Piet won the trust of the other dairy farmers and brought them together in a cooperative that ensures better quality milk thanks to good community care. As a result, the Ethiopian farmers now earn the equivalent of 61 cents per litre, a huge improvement from the 37 eurocent their litre of milk used to be worth.

At the end of the day, the unified milk producers hope to deliver a quality boost to the entire sector, thereby offering Ethiopian farmers a better existence. To achieve this goal, Dawit is working ever more closely with his colleagues in and around Addis Ababa. ‘In addition to assisting with better cattle sheds and the joint purchase of cattle feed, we plan to advise farmers on land management, as well as organising 15-day courses for cattle farmers. We also plan to start a breeding programme.”

However, Dawit is not focusing exclusively on dairy farmers. While he showed us how his pasteurising machine guarantees the quality of the milk, he emphasised the importance of good dairy products for children. “By supplying high-quality products, I hope to contribute to child welfare and improve the standard of living of families.” The enthusiastic entrepreneur is looking forward keenly to Boon’s next visit, to further put into practice his plans for the Ethiopian dairy sector and healthy milk products.

Text: Daaf Borren

Photography: Flo Schepers