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From Albania to Zambia and every country in-between, nutritionists encourage children and young adults to include plenty of calcium in their diets. One of the most popular ways is dairy products, especially milk.

The last Wednesday of September is World School Milk Day set aside by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation. Started in 2000, it raises awareness of school milk programmes. Events are held in about 25 countries, and SNV Kenya toasted the dairy industry that day as part of its involvement with the African Dairy Conference and Exhibition in Nairobi.

As part of its spotlight on school milk, the Kenya dairy industry has asked the nation’s government to revive school milk programmes to ensure good nutrition to growing young people and to trigger increased demand.

“Most of the countries which have transformed their dairy sector have a functioning school milk program,” said Peter Ngaruiya, the executive director at Eastern and Southern Africa Dairy Association (ESADA) which organised the conference. “The dairy industry is one of the agricultural sectors with very high potential of creating employment and food security not only in Kenya but in the region,” he added.

At the conference, SNV focused its attention on both dairy and renewable energy.

“Kenya and the region are experiencing good dairy growth,” said Anton Jansen, agribusiness advisor of SNV Kenya. “Dairying is also experiencing increased interest from local and international investors, but there is potential and need for increased efficiency and competitiveness to reduce cost of production and affordability for consumers, especially those at the Base of the Pyramid”.

SNV showcased its Kenya Market-Led Dairy Programme (KMDP), a 4.5 year effort financed by the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Nairobi. KMDP stimulates and facilitates adoption of innovations and best practices that enhance the competitiveness of the dairy sector.

“We’re really focused on narrowing the ‘knowledge gap’ in the Kenya dairy industry,” Jansen explained. “In doing so we work with all stakeholders in the sector, including farmer organisations, processors, input suppliers and training institutes”. Key in KMDP is transfer of knowledge from more developed dairy economies, notably the Netherlands, to Kenya.”

The Kenya dairy programme mirrors the solutions SNV has developed within its global dairy team to address the need for:

Smart Farmers—Training, applied research, and innovation

Safe Milk—Quality milk and food safety

Green Cows—Reducing carbon footprints in dairyingOn this last point, SNV Kenya’s renewable energy sector also participated at the ESADA exhibition, highlighting the whole-system approach dairy farmers can achieve with the installation of biodigesters. The digester “cooks” the cow manure to capture the methane for cook stoves or even electrical generation to operate chilling tanks to cool milk and maintain its quality. The by-product—bio-slurry—can then be applied to the fields. It improves soil health and, combined with quality seeds and optimum harvest times, allows for efficient fodder production, better feedstuff for cows and higher milk production.

ESADA and exhibitors such as SNV joined together to mark World School Milk Day. They raised their milk glasses and called for good nutrition for all children. Some 100 companies from over 30 countries participated in the, whilst the Conference was attended by over 500 dairy delegates from 45 countries. In addition to ESADA delegates, the show drew more than 5,000 visitors in its “from glass to glass” value chain approach.