Zambian dairy farmer and Milk Collection Centre Manager Ngoza Banda Mwaba is proud of what her community has achieved in terms of milk quality.
Mastitis was a major issue for the Kwanshama Dairy Cooperative Union in the Copperbelt Province when the Zambia Dairy Transformation Programme (ZDTP) started working with its farmers in 2017.
For a long time the cooperative did not know why 75 per cent of the milk being delivered to its Milk Collection Centre (MCC) was being rejected by processors because it was not testing its members' milk, says MCC Manager Ngoza Banda Mwaba.
“The ZDTP introduced the mastitis test and encouraged us to treat the animals. After that, that problem was over.”
Mrs Mwaba and other MCC staff have now learnt how to make a mastitis testing reagent using Sunlight detergent (an affordable alternative to the off-the-shelf version), which “has really helped us in terms of reducing operations costs”.
“We give some [of the reagent] to the farmers … so that they can also do the test on the farm.”
Mrs Mwaba says the ZDTP has also taught farmers how to milk hygienically on their farms and keep their milking utensils clean. As a result, better quality milk has meant better payments as the milk is graded by the processor and farmers are paid accordingly.
“It’s very good because we have surplus money. Farmers enjoy [receiving] ‘Grade A’ payments,” she says.
Kwanshama Dairy Cooperative Union has now expanded its MCC operations to include an ‘agro-shop’, selling maize bran, wheat bran and the Dairy 19 supplement.
“Instead of farmers [having] to go into town, they just get them here. They get them on credit and at the end of the month we deduct from their milk sales.”
The cooperative is hoping to add more items to the shop in future; for example, basic medicines for treating sick animals. Kwanshama Dairy Cooperative Union Chairperson Venansio Banda says when ZDTP staff started working with the cooperative’s farmers, “our animals were not in a good state”.
But now, Mr Banda is proud to say the farmers’ animals are healthy and milk production has gone up.
They are happy to be earning regular incomes on a monthly basis and the cooperative’s membership has almost doubled, he says. “They (the programme staff) are really encouraging us,” Mr Banda says.
Mrs Mwaba says she herself has learnt a lot and experienced significant professional growth through the ZDTP. She recently travelled to Southern Province to educate farmers and cooperative managers involved in another dairy development programme.
“When I started working for the [Kwanshama Dairy Cooperative Union], I didn’t know much about milk handling practices, including testing, but now I am able to train and give advice to farmers and my fellow dairy managers on milk hygiene practices,” she says.
“I am also getting to know more about the use of the computer and it is making my work easier since I can enter or put some of the information on the computer and generate reports – for example, farmers’ milk payments – compared to doing it manually, which consumed most of my time.”
Mrs Mwaba has also learnt about how to prepare financial reports and profit and loss accounts, which Kwanshama Dairy Cooperative Union was not doing in the past.
“Through the ZDTP, I have been able to develop myself and improve on the services I offer to farmers and the community at large. I want to learn more and enjoy sharing knowledge with others as this motivates me," she says.
“When I am stuck and not sure of what to do, I always ask for assistance from ZDTP staff and they are available to help.”