Editor's note: Claudia Garcia is the Senior director of Cattle and Sheep Global Marketing at Elanco. She recently visited Heifer projects in East Africa. Her thoughts about visiting projects for the first time are included here.
"If you want to go fast, go alone
If you want to go far, go together."
Last week marked my first time in Kenya. I experienced the work that Heifer International is leading with the East Africa Dairy Development Project (EADD) in Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda. In this project, approximately 315,000 dairy farmers—with two or three cows each—are learning new ways to improve milk production in a sustainable manner. They are learning about leadership and empowerment.
When we arrived to the city of Eldoret, the rain was bringing its blessings for farmers but was making roads difficult to maneuver. Only a part of the main road was paved and the rest of the city undeveloped. Roads were formed by compact reddish dirt.
In a matter of seconds I validated what a co-worker, Dr. Kevin Watkins, had told me a few years ago: access starts with roads.
It had taken more than an hour to get to Lessos—just 27 miles from Eldoret—one of the 18 collection centers receiving milk from 2,800 farmers. "Milk must move...from the farms to the center" I heard a farmer say, and milk indeed, comes in jars, containers in cars, in motorcycles and in carts pulled by donkeys. Milk must move to the chilling tanks that will keep it at the proper temperature for a dairy processor to pick-up and commercialize in the city. The food chain was forming in front of my eyes, in construction, like the roads in Kenya.
Kenyans consume about one-and-a-half glasses of milk a day per year.
One glass of milk a day...for the the many children I saw walking in uniforms to-and-back from school. Studying to a better future in their country.
One glass of milk a day...for the runners I saw training in small groups on the side of the road. Training to become champions.
At home in Indiana, my son, who is 14-years-old and a long-distance runner, needs to consume four to five servings a day of milk, yogurt or cheese as a part of his training program to reach the protein requirements set by his pediatrician.
How many children and how many runners in Kenya will achieve the protein levels required to develop into adults and champions?
The key is in developing the roads, the farms, the collection centers, the processors and the retail to bring quality milk to all people in Kenya. County by county. City by city. Person by person.
Helping farmers produce more milk with the right quality is my commitment. I don't want to go fast, I cannot go alone.
The farmers that I met cannot go alone. Heifer's approach to access and sustainability is the right one. We need more support to help farmers produce quality milk.
I want to go far; let's go together so milk moves far in Africa.