Let me tell it straight: milk is the next money-maker for rural farmers in Bugisu region and Elgon zone as a whole, and this is why I think so:
I am Wanda Shadrack Wilson. I was born in 1987, when Uganda had just ushered in a new revolutionary government. The economy was in a shambles, cooperatives were heavily indebted, many farmers had lost their livelihood to the war, and coffee, which was the biggest income earner for most farmers, was shrinking in response to a call from government to grow more of beans and maize since these where earning more.
This brought negative effect to farmers and their households. Over the years, the government has come out to encourage farmers and rural communities to revisit their pride and grow more coffee. There have been initiatives to encourage this. There has been a tremendous response.
There is one big problem glaring into this prospect: highly fragmented land.
Nevertheless, this land problem has come with its own advantages: increasingly, former dominantly Arabica coffee farmers have adopted dairy farming practices. Most of these farmers practice zero grazing of animals in the Mt Elgon region.
In 2008, Dutch international organization SNV published a report entitled ‘Investment Opportunities in the Dairy Sector in Uganda’. Its findings are greatly being used as a tool for investment in this sector in this country.
Eastern region is a milk-deficient area in Uganda only coming second to northern region. Due to land fragmentation, farmers have adopted the keeping of livestock on a zero-grazing arrangement, which is one of the best dairy practices.
I am happy because I have been part of this journey for at least the past eight years. Last year, I started Ranch 22 Dairies with the aim of offering markets to dairy farmers around the Mt Elgon zone for their milk and other dairy products.
With financial assistance from someone, I was able to purchase a milk-bulking tank of up to 1,000 litres, then I mobilized farmers who gave me 40 litres of milk on credit to kickstart the project back in march last year.
Currently as per this post, Ranch 22 Dairies is receiving and selling up to 400 litres of milk each day from the slopes of Mt Elgon from over 80 farmers, who I helped form into groups for collective mobilization of milk.
With my background in agriculture, I am passionate about my achievements so far. I have trained in dairy value addition, and am already applying these skills for the benefit of the whole region around me.
Currently, Ranch 22 Dairies is processing yoghurt under its brand—this is my brainchild. Our product is locally available on the shelves of the supermarkets here and at our store in Mbale town.
This effort has been able to improve the income of this dairy community but this hasn’t been without challenges, including: insufficient working capital, poor road network, a lack of skills and machinery specifically for value-adding, coupled with an unreliable electricity supply.
Ranch 22 Dairies intends to go massively into value-adding. We want to increase our milk volumes beyond our current capacity, since we already have a milk cooler of 1,000 litres. We want to process ice cream and yoghurt.
We want to go into this processing massively so as to cater first for our local market which is currently being fed on even dairy products that come from as far as Kenya.
This USD 5,000 grant will go along way to quickening the footsteps of this journey and keeping my dream, and keep my farmers’ dream burning.
Blogpost and picture submitted by Wanda Shadrack Wilson (Uganda): ranch22dairies[at]gmail.com
The content, structure and grammar are at the discretion of the author only.
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