The Zimbabwe Association of Dairy Farmers (ZADF) has transformed the lives of many smallholder dairy farmers in Mutasa district.
Before the establishment of the association 14 years ago, local farmers used to operate in a subsistence manner, mainly producing milk for domestic consumption.
Today, with the assistance of ZADF, over 38 small farmers are major suppliers of milk. A field officer with ZADF, Richard Wiskot, said he was impressed by how the smallholder farmers had managed to adapt to new farming technologies.
“We have managed to train farmers to adopt new technology as well as diary management. We also link them to markets so that they sell their products at competitive and viable prices,” he said.
So far they have established 14 milk centres in Mutasa district, where farmers receive fair prices for their produce.
Amos Chitungo praised ZADF for its sterling effort to empower the small holder dairy farmers. The former teacher said ever since he started receiving assistance from ZADF, milk production had increased at his three hectare plot.
He has a mixture of 20 Holsten and Red Dane cattle. “On zero percent grazing system I feed the cattle in their pens from the hay bales, which I produce on my small piece of land,” said Chitungo.
He usually gets 25 litres of milk daily. “We milk the cows at 6am, 1 pm and 8 pm in the evening. I have state of the art milking machine and storage equipment which I got with the assistance from ZADF,” said Chitungo. But he bemoaned lack of technical and financial support from the government.
“There is lack of information and financial support to upcoming dairy farmers. Government should seriously consider funding the dairy sector because it has the capacity to generate foreign currency and create employment,” said Chitungo.
“From early days small holder farmers used to play a pivotal role in supplying milk to the then Dairy Marketing Board(DMB).The challenge now is that they lag behind in terms of technology and government, with the assistance of NGOs, should chip in to support them,” he added.
ZADF chairman Craig Follwell said the small-scale diary sector had played a pivotal role in sustaining the local industry. Ten million litres has been collected at milk collection centres across the country since they started the programme last year. His organisation has signed a three year partnership with We Effect (formerly Swedish Cooperative Centre) this year to enable it to continue improving their capacity to provide member services.
“If we give help to small scale dairy farmers this will lead to improved livelihoods and job creation within our dairy industry, “he said, adding that ZADF has become a source of impartial information to the sector. “If we continue to work together, along with all our partners, we will succeed in our efforts to restore self-sufficiency to the industry. We will succeed in increasing our production to enable exports of quality products as we did in the past,” said Follwell.
The national herd currently stands at 5.3 million but out of this only 0.05 percent(26,502) cattle are dairy cows, producing only 54 million litres per annum as compared to 256 million litres in the 1990s when the dariy herd was 191,000.-The Zimbabwean