SMALLHOLDER and medium-scale farmers have been urged to venture into dairy farming so as to boost milk production in the country and meet local demand currently at 130 million litres per annum.
The Zimbabwean dairy industry recorded a sharp decline in milk production from 262 million litres in 1990 to 37 million litres in 2009. There has been a steady but slow increase to 82 million litres in 2021.
Speaking at the launch of Somerset Milk hub in Marondera last week, Zimbabwe Association of Dairy Farmers’ business and growth development committee chairperson Peter Muzariri said historically milk production was only done by commercial farmers, adding that smallholder farmers should fill in the supply gap.
“There is a huge deficit in terms of milk supply, we must ensure that we increase to meet our national requirement. Over and above that once we are above the national requirement, we can export which will ensure much-needed foreign currency in the country,” he said.
“ZADF through the business growth and development initiatives is promoting the graduation of small-scale milk producers to medium-scale producers, medium-scale farmers to large-scale producers and the large-scale producers to mega dairies,”
TransDVC representative Portia Makunde said the European Union funded project, which is being implemented under the Zimbabwe Agriculture Growth Programme (ZAGP), stands out with smallholder and medium-scale farmers in milk production.
“We are operating in 33 districts which were discovered during our milk mapping exercise including those with potential to produce milk including Marondera which is under Mashonaland East. We identify farmers in those districts as well as other prospective dairy farmers known as greenfields, we educate them through exhaustive farmer trainings and we give them books through our study cycle material which are given by our field officers,” she said.
Makunde added that as TranzDVC, they were negotiating with relevant stakeholders to reduce the price of feed. According to the IH Securities report titled A Zimbabwe Agriculture Sector Report, feed alone now accounts for more than 80% of the total cost of milk production.
“As a project, we do lobby and advocacy for farmers and as of now we have managed to reduce the cost of feed which we have engaged the government, institutional framework for smallholder development in Zimbabwe and increasing dairy extension workers in our communities,” she said.
The TranZDVC project, which commenced in January 2019, aims to address the root causes of underperformance of the dairy value chain in Zimbabwe by strengthening the linkages between production, processing and financing. The €7 million project is part of a €40 million European Union- funded Zimbabwe Agricultural Growth Programme (ZAGP)
Sommerset Milk Hub is a collection of 20 smallholder farmers who are currently producing 1000 litres of milk which is being channeled to the food and drink processor, Nestlé Zimbabwe.
Sommerset Milk Hub lead farmer Wellington Nheta encouraged other smallholder farmers to collaborate and form milk hubs which is very profitable.
“I started dairy farming last year after I received a heifer from the TranzDVC programme. After that heifer gave birth, we started milking it and at that time we were getting a yield of 10 litres per day. It encouraged me to invest more into dairy which has resulted in us growing our herd to the current size of 60 cows,” he revealed.
“At the present moment Sommerset Milk Hub consists of 20 farmers who are currently registered and 20 more have expressed an interest, they actually pay a joining fee and they also pay monthly subscriptions.”
Follow Donald on Twitter