Pendo Maïga is the president of a women’s co-operative that produces, processes and markets its own, homegrown milk. Some of their co-op members are happy to drop-off up five- or ten-litre plastic bottles of raw milk at the co-op, and then head straight to the cashier get their payout. Customers come for the yogurt or pasteurized milk.
Sitting in the shady entrance to the dairy with three other women, Ms. Maïga smiles as she counts twenty people arriving in just half an hour. The co-op’s goods are in such demand that she must tell each customer, “There is no milk this morning. Come back this evening.”
The Nungu Kossam co-op is based in the town of N’Gourma Fada, in eastern Burkina Faso. The 13 women in the co-op sell their products directly from their office and in shops around town. They earn a good amount of cash from processing and selling dairy products.
Ramatou Maïga is also a member of the co-operative. She explains how they organize their earnings: “At the end of the month, we get together and do the accounts. We put aside some of the profits for the group and the rest is shared between us. This means that each of us can go home with some money for school fees, medical expenses and other small household bills.”
It is a testament to the co-op’s popularity that so many people come to their office to buy their products. Ms. Pendo Maïga believes this is because the co-op’s products are high quality. She says: “It all starts when we collect the milk from our members and other dairy farmers. When the milk arrives at the dairy, we do several quality control tests.”
She explains more about the daily tests: “We can test a small volume of milk by heating it. If the milk coagulates, it means that the quality is not good.”
Some dairy farmers are tempted to dilute their milk with water to increase the volume and earn more money. Ms. Pendo Maïga continues, “In this case, we use a lacto-density meter to see if the milk was diluted or not.”
The co-operative also organizes regular health check-ups for the cows. All the animals are checked for tuberculosis and brucellosis. Three cows tested positive for the diseases during the last round of testing and the co-op no longer accepts their milk.
The co-operative can barely keep up with the growing demand. Ms. Pendo Maïga says: “Currently we are well-known, and everyone is interested in our products. But too many come and find we are sold out … It is disheartening because people will go elsewhere.”
The problem is particularly common during the dry season. Ms. Pendo Maïga laments: “Right now, there isn’t enough milk. The cow owners who would normally give us 50 litres per day are bringing only five or ten litres. When we ask what the problem is, they say that the herders are on their annual migration with their cows.”
Ms. Pendo Maïga thinks the solution is for the co-op members to increase the size of their own herds. Then, the members could produce enough milk for the co-operative to be self-sufficient.