Today I visited the Dzaonewekha Dairy Co-operative in the central region of Malawi and saw first hand the difference that our training had made and how the co-op has progressed since the 1970's. 

The co-operative has two small buildings, one which houses an office and storage, the other containing their milk processing equipment of storage and cooling tanks, a pasturiser and 2 large chest freezers. I met with the co-operative board members and members, and they all said how much they’d enjoyed attending the first of our focus groups in Lilongwe, saying they’d found the meeting very informative and that they had received advice and guidance they hadn’t expected to get on the day.

The co-operative had started as an informal group back in the 1970s. They said that they were just a group of farmers with no one to lean on and did not make profits as they weren’t a co-operative. They were given refresher training by CEPEESM project officer Judith Chisiye, which they say equipped them with the knowledge to generate profit and be self-reliant, enabling them to have bought the generator and the cooling tank, as well as build the newer of their two buildings to process the milk.

Their next plans are to fence the area around their building for security purposes, enlarge their newer building and also to purchase a homogeniser to break up the fats in the milk so that they can expand their potential market. They would also like to build a meeting room for their members; we met in the outside under a shady tree as at this time of year the temperature is relatively cool, but this isn’t ideal when the weather is too hot or in the rainy season.

The co-operative has 356 members, 172 men and 174 women. The average number of cows per member is 2, each with a daily yield of approximately 15 litres. People said that this yield has greatly increased since receiving training through the CEPEESM project, from 1000 litres to 1400 litres per day, mainly through the training on feed improvement and organic fertiliser. The members also emphasised how much the training on how to buy shares in the co-operative had enabled them to improve the dairy’s infrastructure.

They said that before the training they wasted a lot of time and resources and had very meager profits; in addition they didn’t keep any records which made planning impossible. Now they are able to see what their inputs and outgoings are, calculate their profits and invest in improving the co-operative to benefit all of the members. They also spoke of how the CEPEESM project has connected them to other co-operatives, which has enabled them to share information and ask for advice.

Another positive aspect that people talked about was that as they develop and improve their milk production, they know they have an assured market as there is a high demand for dairy products. We talked about diversifying their production as they were interested in investigating other markets and value addition with products such as yoghurt and cheese.  I told them about some of the dairy animals people have in other parts of the world, such as goats, Asian buffalo and even camels and donkeys.

They had a good laugh about the idea of trying to milk a donkey, but they were interested in the idea of goats as they keep goats for meat but have never considered using goats as a dairy animal. Before leaving we said that we’d get some information for them about dairy goats and whether or not they were a viable option in this area.

Our work with co-ops like this one can't continue without your help. See how you can make a difference here