7 November 2017. Brussels, European Parliament. Smallholder dairy development in Africa with a particular focus on pastoralist systems.

CELEP prepared a background note together with the German Institute for Tropical and Subtropical Agriculture (DITSL). (see RELOAD project: Reduction of Post Harvest Losses and Value Addition in East African Food Value Chains)

Reference: background document on the role of the European Union in support of pastoralist and smallholder dairy farming in (Eastern) Africa.

The objective of the briefing was to inform and raise awareness in the European Parliament to design policies and finance programmes and projects on pastoralism (CELEP mission statement).

Dairy was an entry point to discuss pastoralism. During the roundtable discussion, the focus was on challenges related to this central theme and to tackle pastoralist’ challenges and improve small-scale milk production, processing and marketing in terms of both quantity and quality and with due recognition of the social and cultural issues involved, including gender issues. 

The roundtable discussion  allowed for every participant to the session to express her/his opinions regarding the topic with a clear view on challenges and opportunities for pastoralist development and small-scale dairy development
in sub-Saharan Africa.

The session included a discussion on:

Studies show that pastoralism is a productive system for drylands and is generally considered to be the most profitable way to use marginal lands. A study in Afar Region in Ethiopia showed that the pastoral production system brought higher returns per hectare than irrigated sugar and cotton production. 

A number of studies (e.g. Thébaud 2004) have shown that, when livestock mobility is assured, pastoralism benefits rangeland management. Grazing animals eat dead grass and other biomass at the dry season’s end, paving the way for new growth in the rains and preventing bush fires and the spread of unpalatable grasses and shrubs. Grazing livestock disperse plant seeds that stick to the animals’ bodies, and aid the germination of other seeds by eating and excreting them. Herds break up hard soil crusts, allowing water to filter through and seeds to sprout. Livestock also provide plant nutrients through their manure. More significantly, the shared management of pooled resources practised by pastoralists prevents the need for costly fencing, surveillance and land clearance.

  • What is pastoralism, how do you define it? 
  • How many pastoralists are there in Eastern Africa? 
  • What is pastoralist’ live like? 
  • What is its’ importance? How do we measure this importance? 
  • How does it contribute to national and regional economies? 
  • How does it contribute to livelihoods? 
  • How does it contribute to food security and nutrition?

2. Challenges for pastoralist development.

Widespread misunderstanding about pastoralism has left it often under protected, undervalued and an unintended victim of uninformed policies. However, this livelihood system, which evolved as an adaptive strategy to be able to thrive in some of the world’s harshest regions, is ideally suited to the climatic and economic uncertainties of our turbulent century. Informed and supportive policies need to be developed and implemented to realise the tremendous potential of pastoralism.

  • Climate Change 
  • Food Security Nutrition 
  • Income 
  • Conflict 
  • Access to services (health services (human and animal), education, etc.) 
  • Access to resources such as land, water, etc. 
  • Access to infrastructure such as electricity, roads, etc.

3. Dairy

Smallholder dairying in the Global South not only provides food security, but is also very important for human nutrition. Though smallholder dairying in the South provides many benefits, specific challenges related to production, commercialisation and consumption of milk persist. Inadequate access to fodder, credit, veterinary services and markets often limit production. 

Lack of investment in local collecting, storage and processing of milk is also a serious problem. Collection of milk from (agro-)pastoralist herds is often a challenge because the herds are highly mobile and spatially dispersed. Animal mobility is necessary if the available natural resources are to be used in a sustainable way. To be able to realise the full potential of small-scale dairying in developing countries, clear strategies are needed for strengthening capacities in small-scale milk production, collection and processing, in ways that connect all stakeholders of the value chain equitably. Such strategies should include investment in small- and medium-scale milk

collection and processing units.

  • What is the status of the dairy sector in Eastern Africa? What is the dominant production system? What is its’ potential? Is there auto sufficiency when it comes to dairy? 
  • What are the challenges related to pastoralist’ dairy production? Is there a potential? 
  • What about camel milk? Is this also being developed? Is there a market for that?

4. Pathways for pastoralist development. 

The EU through its development cooperation and its well-developed agriculture can play an important role in boosting small-scale dairy development in Africa and overall development of pastoralist production systems. The EU dairy sector could also play a positive role in this. There is already investment by European firms in the African dairy sector, but small-scale farmers and pastoralists are not always benefiting fully from this investment. In dairy development initiatives, it is important to plan together with the small-scale African milk producers, processors and traders – and it is important to be aware of the key role of African women in dairying, especially among many pastoralist groups.

  • What can the EU do to support pastoralism? 
  • Which initiatives exist that fight particular challenges (land rights, climate change, etc.)? 
  • What can be done within the EU (domestic policies) to support pastoralist development in Africa?
Related:

13 November 2017. Expanding Dairy Businesses in Ethiopia

USAID/Ethiopia’s Agriculture Growth Program – Livestock Market Development (AGP-LMD) project enhances the capacity of women entrepreneurs like Meskerem Solomon in livestock value chains. Meskerem founded the Azu Dairy Farm in 2007 and is using a grant alongside training in cheesemaking, dairy management and business proposal development through AGP-LMD to expand the dairy’s milk buying contracts to smallholder farmers who do not have other market access, increasing their incomes as well. She also plans to expand the dairy’s cheese processing capacity to meet growing demand, including from her own pizza restaurant.

This post was originally published at PAEPARD and has been republished with permission.

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