Dairy Network in the Andes,

Securing better milk prices

Through coordination and financial services, farmers are able to enter formal markets and meet bigger orders.

Detailed map highlighting the geographic locations of past and active projects in Ecuador.
Cotopaxi, Pichincha and El Oro provinces of Ecuador

The Dairy Network in the Andes (DNA) project is enabling local farmers to expand their dairy farms and join forces to set up rural dairy enterprises. Working with 2,850 farmers in Cotopaxi, Pichincha and El Oro provinces, the project builds on progress made under previous Heifer projects and is supporting families to close the living income gap.

In Ecuador, small and medium-scale dairy producers deliver more than 75% of the country’s milk. More than a million families depend on dairy for their income, with small dairy farms alone contributing 1% of the country’s GDP.

The DNA project is supporting farmers to establish 16 dairy producer associations. These profit-making, self-sustaining cooperatives provide farmers with the resources they need to grow their businesses.

Financial services give farmers and their businesses the cash they need to enter formal markets and meet bigger orders. And by joining regional dairy networks, farmers are able to secure better prices for their milk.

Farmers participating in the project are expected to see their incomes increase by $2,334 per year, over a 5-year period through 2021.

Starting with the core product, the project aims to increase the quantity and quality of milk each farm produces. Training in dairy cattle management, pasture utilization, and the use of milking equipment and electric fences boost each cow’s milk output from 6 to 10 liters per day.

Producer associations then work together to achieve 100% processing capacity, or 2,000 liters of milk a day, with technical assistance, veterinary and genetic improvement services for cattle, and enhanced forage for livestock.

Farmers will also ramp up production of artisanal cheese and yogurt to meet local demand, selling fresh, small-batch, sustainable dairy products to supermarkets and hotels in Pichincha, El Oro, and Esmeraldas. These value-addition products can be sold throughout the year and further boost farmers’ incomes.

Farmer associations then help establish long-term supply chains for these products, forging valuable partnerships marketing milk to major dairy corporations such as Parmalat, Alpina, El Milde, Tony, Polaca, El Ranchito, and Nutrileche. Negotiating as a group and being able to reliably deliver higher volumes, enables farmers to command more competitive prices.

By adopting environmentally-friendly farming practices that reduce erosion and overgrazing, farmers are preserving natural resources. Their families’ health and nutrition are also improving thanks to readily accessible dairy products and fresh fruit and vegetables from their kitchen gardens.