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 Prior to 2007 dairy products made with actual milk were hard to come by in Ghana. I know that sounds strange, but even the most popular dairy product on the market—yogurt—was mostly made with powdered milk. These powder-based products are still very popular, but a few dairy farmers are making a case for real milk and milk-based products.

Mama Yogurt serves up samples.

One such person is Joyce Ayiku, or “Mama Yogurt” as she was nicknamed by Heifer staff during our visit there Tuesday. Ayiku, 49, received a dairy cow from Heifer International four years ago. She is one of the few dairy farmers in Nsawam, not far from the capital of Accra.

What she and others soon discovered was that there was little to no market for the excess milk the cows were providing. So they took their problem to Heifer, who encouraged them to process the milk into yogurt. Heifer also connected them with marketing professionals who advised them on how to sell their product, which was unfamiliar to most in the area.

Photos by Jane Hahn

To say that Joyce was a quick learner is an understatement. When she first began processing her milk into yogurt, she basically went door to door telling people about Heifer and why yogurt from fresh milk was better.

She now can’t make enough yogurt to keep up with the demand. The 34 other dairy farmers in her group sell their excess milk more often to Joyce than to anyone else. She makes yogurt from all that milk and stores it in her home’s four freezers.

Joy Natural Yogurt in banana, pineapple and strawberry flavors, is also on the shelves of two supermarkets, and she also sells to schools and churches in her area (in either cups, bottles, one liter, 5 liters or 10 liters). She makes her own labels with the help of her son who is in college thanks to the money she's made, and she is in the process of building a new processing facility on her property.

And she’s not done. She envisions her own Joy Natural Yogurt plant with a cooking room, a freezing room and a packing room, as well as a stand-alone yogurt shop, too.

Oh, and the strawberry yogurt? It’s real good. I can vouch for that.


Annie Bergman

Annie Bergman is a Global Communications Manager and helps plan, assign and develop content for the nonprofit’s website, magazine and blog. Bergman has interviewed survivors of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, beekeepers in Honduras, women’s groups in India and war widows in Kosovo, among many others in her six years at Heifer.