Nelly Bassily | July 20, 2009
It used to be difficult for Abeba Yebiyo to feed her family of eight. The family grew barley and survived on a limited diet. But everything changed when a local NGO provided her with a cow. Things got even better when she joined a dairy co-op.
Ms. Yebiyo’s family now enjoys milk everyday and sells what they don’t use. By selling milk, they can earn up to 12,000 Ethiopia birr per year (about 1,000 American dollars or 750 Euros).
Ms. Yebiyo lives in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia. Raising cattle breeding is a common livelihood in this region, but breeders face many challenges. The Relief Society of Tigray, or REST, is a local NGO that decided to help.
REST began introducing Begeit cows to the region. They are known for being well adapted to Tigray’s semi-arid highlands and for producing high milk yields. REST sold Begeit cows to locals on credit.
Farmers like Ms. Yebiyo got up to eight litres of milk per day from one cow. This provided families with a good source of nutrition. It also led to the question – what to do with the extra milk?
REST met with dairy farmers and local authorities. They learned that farmers needed a marketing strategy to turn the surplus milk into profit. The idea of small-scale co-ops began to emerge. Interested farmers were assigned roles within co-operatives. REST provided milking equipment and helped with organization.
There are now several successful dairy co-operatives in Tigray. One of them is the Daero Milk Processing and Marketing Co-operative. This co-operative was started three years ago and has 30 members. REST sponsored training and members visited other co-ops to learn how they operate.
Each member of the co-op owns at least two milking cows. Every day, the farmers bring their milk to a central location. Some of the milk is sold whole. Some is processed and sold as boiled milk, skimmed milk, yogourt, or butter. The result is a daily income for co-op members.
And the farmers aren’t the only ones who benefit. Thanks to the co-ops, locals now have better access to nutritious milk and milk products.