Milk production processes and marketing within the Ethiopian dairy sector need to be enhanced. Through the Enhancing Dairy Sector Growth in Ethiopia (EDGET) project, SNV is supporting smallholder dairy farmers in addressing these challenges.

“Milk is our life. Our income depends on the marketing of milk products.” said Atsede Urege, a dairy cooperative member in Oromia region, Ethiopia.           

Dairy work plays a multifunctional role in the livelihoods of smallholder farmers. It provides nutritious food, drafts power for farming, increases incomes, serves as an additional source of energy (e.g. cow dung can be used as fuel) and fulfils socio-cultural functions such as prestige in the community.

However, lack of access to dairy markets is one of the major bottlenecks hampering the development of the sector. As a result, most of the produced milk and milk products are sold through informal market channels (Terefe et al., 2014). 

SNV in Ethiopia is contributing to the improvement of the sector through the Enhancing Dairy Sector Growth in Ethiopia (EDGET) project. EDGET has a participatory and market oriented approach to develop the rural milk value chain through capacity building, promotion of improved dairy technology, marketing of milk products as well as the establishment of dairy input dealers and dairy cooperatives.

Even though women play a key role in dairy value chain, particularly in milking and marketing activities, they have not benefited from their effort yet. But this is about to change.

Some of the Hawi Gudina Dairy Processing Cooperative executive committee members

The Hawi Gudina Dairy Processing Cooperative is one of the 26 EDGET supported Dairy Processing Units. The cooperative has 110 members of which 104 are women. Atsede Urege is the secretary of the cooperative.

She says, “We, women, spend more time and energy on cow and calf management. However, we have not benefited from our cows due to lack of sustainable markets. We had to depend on the goodwill of the processors and milk collectors around. This processing unit is serving as an outlet for our milk.”

The Dairy Processing Unit improves the benefits of the members and smallholder dairy farmers around the area. It has already started to generate additional income for the members and sustainable markets for their milk.

This has motivated the cooperative members to apply the knowledge and skills they learned through the project’s capacity building programme. The farmers are saving the increased income from the sale of milk to increase the number of their cows. The success of the cooperative lies on the capacity to mobilise new dairy farmers to supply milk to the processing unit.

Atsede adds: “Our future plan is to make the facility more profitable and attract more members. The processing unit is 10 km away from the main road. We have planned to open a shop close to the main road for selling raw skimmed milk, butter and cottage cheese.”

EDGET provides processing technology, capacity development and business linkage support to all Dairy Processing Units in order to create better market access for smallholder dairy farmers.