Sometimes, success is found in the most unlikely places. Like in sleepy, dusty villages in remote sections of central Uganda’s Sembalule district. It took us hours driving on bumpy roads under sweltering heat to finally arrive at the quite emerging town of Nabitanga. Yet, Nabitanga’s accomplishments in dairy production is impressive and has attracted the business of Sameer Agricultural Limited Company, a leading milk processor in Uganda. But why not, from only 5 members, this EADD project partner cooperative has grown its membership to an impressive 999 within 4 years. Through EADD’s assistance, it invested in a milk cooler, extension services and farmer training. As a result, it has bulked and sold a total of 3,693,000 liters of milk since June 2010 generating UGX 1,3 billion ($501,930) from milk revenue against the initial investment of UGX 200 million ($77,220).
On average, a farmer who supplies milk to the cooperative takes home some UGX 2.4 million($930) in a good month. Nabitanga has 178 suppliers (both farmers and transporters) 30 of them women.The chairman of the cooperative Mr. Tugume David recalls humble beginnings, “We did not have a place to sell our milk so we mobilized a few people to come together as a co-operative to enable us increase our milk volumes and access markets and better prices. Not many bought in our dream, and so we were only five of us when we started.”
That is then, today the people who once collected milk under a tree to sell to brokers, have hired a cadre of graduate manager and experienced extension workers to manage and structure its growth. EADD project skilled technical staff works closely with the cooperative staff to strengthen capacity. Thus, in addition to setting up a chilling plant it has invested its savings to secure a 3.5 acres plot nearby and is putting up a new building at a cost of UGX 67 million ($25,865), the chairman revealed. This will be the biggest single unit building in the town.
The business is exclusively owned by farmers; and makes profits for the farmer investors. The hub approach innovates to counter the initial challenges farmers experienced like being unable to access Business Development Services (BDS), breeding services, animal healthcare, feeds and other production inputs. Through the hub, farmer access affordable extension services, agro-vet supplies, access to loans and credit at competitive prices.
Ignatius Agaba, the manager of the cooperative projects bulking 20,000 litres of milk per day in the next two years. To accomplish this, intensive cross-breeding activities and farmer education on feeding technologies is ongoing. “We organize field training sessions for the farmers where we sensitize them on artificial insemination and current feeding technologies like silage making, hay production and management of fodder pastures.” As a result, many of the members are gradually up-grading their livestock to hybrid Guernsey, jersey and Friesian breeds.
Mr. Agaba cites the improved livelihood of members, including increase in house hold income, better nutrition and school attendance as an encouragement to more people joining the cooperative. “We hope to grow our shareholding and soon venture into value addition including milk processing,” he shares.
Poor roads continue being a challenge to milk marketing and slows down delivery and collection of milk to the cooperative. Agaba notes that the cooperative big dreams has stimulated development, “This township, is fast expanding with shops and other trade facilities sprouting by the month. Before, the nearest restaurants and guest houses were 50 kilometres away, but today, we have three guest houses within an area of ½ km. People have more money that they can invest, they can afford to take their children to school and travel to other districts. The area has opened up as a result of access to milk market.” In a country where many farmers own traditional herds of cattle, (which they use to measure wealth) and has only two main processors and small make-shift shelters for milk collection centers, Nabitanga is blazing the trail proving a success of EADD-Heifer pilot hub approach. A testament that access to finance and affordable inputs is what the country needs to stimulate sustainable dairy development and wealth creation.
Story: Ann Mbiruru