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White gold: Milk business improving lives of Tanzania traders

The More Milk in Tanzania (MoreMilkiT) project assists dairy value chain actors including milk producers and traders, and input and service providers in Morogoro and Tanga to make their dairy businesses more profitable and increase benefits from milk production.

Milk production, which in Tanzania is often referred to as ‘dhahabu nyeupe’ (Swahili for white gold), contributes to household income and nutrition and food security. Most milk traders in the project operate in dairy market hubs where they are trained in dairy business management, animal husbandry and organizational development.

In November 2015, MoreMilkiT led a business opportunity seminar in Morogoro for 25 milk traders including six women to help them strengthen their dairy businesses which are linked to producers in and outside the project.

We talked with four participants to hear their stories.

Manka Kimaro

Manka Kimaro

Manka Kimaro is a mother of three who has operated her milk selling business for 10 years in Mbuzii village, Tanga. Kimaro has seen her enterprises grow because of selling milk and now owns several businesses and plans to build a storage structure to accommodate the increasing quantities of milk and clientele. As a member of the ‘Maziwa Zaidi’ (meaning more milk) Mbuzii group, she is linked to other milk producers and traders and input and service providers. Group members have signed agreements with service providers and are operating a check off system for procuring inputs and services on credit.

Income from selling milk and inputs is helping build my house.

Kimaro’s life turned around after the MoreMilkiT project facilitated villagers to form a producer group that became the foundation for the dairy market hub in Mbuzii village. Since then, the group has been equipped with skills on how to manage their group and dairy businesses.She says market linkages facilitated by the project have strengthened her business and relationship with milk producers and input providers.

‘I buy animal medicine on credit from Mbegu’s veterinary shop on behalf of those who sell milk to me and then deduct the cost from my payment for their milk’. She handles up to 40 litres of milk daily and the volumes are increasing. ‘I also own a shop and a small café where I sell meat, rice, petroleum, maize bran and other home supplies on credit to group members who supply me with milk’. She says the seminar helped her understand that ‘it’s okay to make little profits to cover my business costs’. She now plans to put up a milk collection unit to increase capacity for milk collection and look for markets as far as Dar es Salaam.

Having been in the milk business for a long time, Kimaro lights up when she talks about its benefits. ‘All my children have gone through private schools and the eldest has joined university. I am also building a house for my family. This training will help me strengthen my business’. She plans to mentor her two farmer friends whom she says have the potential to venture into the business.

Angel Tumaini

Angel Tumaini

Angel Tumaini is from Turiani village in Morogoro. She beams with joy when explaining how selling milk has helped her family. ‘In 1996, I saw my mother start with one calf; the herd has grown and with the trainings we have received from this project on animal breeding, feeding and managing dairy business, I help her to run several businesses and we recently purchased a car! I am currently overseeing the family business and that’s why I am attending this seminar’.

She says the project enlightened her and her mother on adding value to their milk and helped them to diversify their business and subsequently increase their income.

We started with one calf and now we own a car.

According to Tumaini, after practicing what they learned about feeding techniques, they now get thicker milk, which has earned them trust from clients and they now have more customers buying their milk. To meet the increasing demand, they buy milk from other producers. They sell fresh and sour milk besides managing a busy café and a shop that sells molasses. They now sell 80 litres of milk  each day which has grown from 50 litres in the beginning, and they expect to soon sell more milk because they have two cows that are in calf. To ensure milk quality remains high, they have invested in a freezer and a fridge.

Tumaini says selling milk has lifted them out of poverty and they will continue to attend seminars and other trainings organized by the project and talk about the benefits of dairying with their neighbours and friends.

Saleh Hussein

Saleh Hussein

Saleh Hussein lives in Masatu village in Tanga. He says that selling milk has increased his income and transformed his life. He started by selling milk alongside buying and selling goats and cows. He then specialized in selling milk after the MoreMilkiT project began operating in his village. He started with 30 litres from his farm, which he used to transport on his bicycle, and as the volumes increased when he started buying from other producers, he bought a motorbike to ferry the 80-120 litres that he was collecting. Eventually, after 4 years, he upgraded his business by buying a pick-up truck when the quantity doubled to 200-230 litres per day.

I moved from selling 30 litres to 230 litres of milk in a day.

Hussein says the secret to his success is maintaining strict hygiene when handling milk and using artificial insemination (AI) to improve his herd as has been recommended by the MoreMilkiT project. His main challenge is finding new markets. He also says milk producers should be trained on milk handling to avoid losses. At the seminar, he learned the importance of keeping records and he looks forward to better calculating his costs and tracking his profits. He has also learnt how to increase profits by transporting back to his village animal medicine, molasses and mineral blocks to sell after delivering milk in town.

Leah Mwilaki

Leah Mwilaki

Leah Mwilaki says selling milk has lifted her from poverty and relieved her of stereotypes associated with widows like her in the community. She has single-handedly successfully raised  four children who are all in private schools using income from her dairy business.

Mwilaki is both a livestock keeper and a milk trader in Wami Sokoine village in Mvomero District. Currently, she buys milk from neighbours at between TSh 500 and 600 (USD 0.27) per litre to supplement her own production and then sells about 200 litres of bulked milk to outlets in Morogoro town at TSh 1000 per litre. Her clients include hotels, restaurants and milk vendors. The secret to her success is ensuring strict hygiene when handling milk and maintaining honest relationships with buyers and suppliers.

I make daily profit of up to Tshs. 100,000 during peak seasons.

She says that as a result of attending the seminar, she will buy a lactometer to check milk quality during collection because she learnt it will help to detect adulterated milk and reduce her losses. She is also planning to buy a pick-up truck to transport the increasing milk volumes and reach new markets. She also sells inputs such as animal feeds and veterinary drugs to neighbours.

Mwilaki’s many roles illustrate the kind of dairy market hub linkages that the MoreMilkIT project is promoting in Tanzania.

The project will continue mentoring and coaching these traders in implementing the business plans they developed at the seminar. The producers they work with will also be linked to existing producer groups or encouraged to start new groups as a way of increasing the volume and value of their business transactions.

MoreMilkiT is funded by Irish Aid and is led by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). It is implemented by Faida MaLi, the Tanzania Dairy Board, Sokoine University of Agriculture and Heifer International.

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