Milk Matters

Jul 16, 2018 10:00 AM ET

Agriculture has achieved a lot over the past century, but there’s still a long way to go to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 2 and ensure sustainable food production systems, increase the incomes of smallholder farmers and end hunger.

In the dairy industry, global demand for milk is set to overtake supply within only a decade. Smallholder farmers have a vital role to play in meeting this demand to address the food security and nutrition challenges.  Today, a staggering 339 million tonnes of milk is still being produced by smallholder farmers out of a global total of 819 million tonnes. In addition to achieving food security and reducing waste, the dairy industry has significant potential to link smallholder farmers, create jobs, and increase income along the entire value chain.

The first Dairy Hub, established in Bangladesh, has been up and running in Chatmohar since September 2010.  Today, there are now 5 Dairy Hubs running in Bangladesh collecting milk from more than 12,000 smallholder farmers. Through our unique Dairy Hub model, we’re helping build sustainable dairy value chains by supporting smallholder farmers and connecting our customers to higher-quality locally produced milk in seven developing countries across three continents.

When we think of sustainable value chains, we think of balancing the four pillars of sustainable dairy farming:

  • Providing smallholder farmers access to a formal market
  • Efficient farm management focusing on long-term profitability
  • Utilising best practices in animal health and husbandry
  • Minimising environmental impact

The overall aim of running a Dairy Hub project is to secure a long-term supply of locally produced quality milk without increasing the collection cost. The model rests upon the idea of linking smallholder farmers to a dedicated dairy processor in a selected area and providing “hands-on” practical knowledge transfer.  We collect and measure the data from the farms utilizing a “one-herd” concept.  Working in partnerships creates an efficient and long-lasting approach to setting up sufficient infrastructure with appropriate technology and facilities, providing knowledge transfer, and offering the farmers advisory services. It also increases the supply of locally produced milk, reducing the dependence on imported milk powder, reduces food loss and establishes a more stable supply chain of nutritious and safe food.

We have seen around the world how this model successfully increases efficiencies and enhances the stability of the dairy supply chain. In Bangladesh, the dairy farmers’ average milk yield per cow daily is up 143%, milk collected per day is up 1950% and the average income per month is up 144% from when we began in 2010.  In Nicaragua, the average milk yield per cow increased 81% and the Grade A milk quality collected improved from 6.4% to 81% since 2012.  In Sri Lanka the average income per smallholder farmer per month increased 57%.

“We are finally able to stand on our own two feet and provide for our children without being in debt,” says one local farmer. “The project has been a godsend to us.”

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