Malawi: Dairy farmer improves production by listening to the radio

| August 24, 2015

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Chrissie Waison wakes up every morning and checks on her dairy cow. She washes its udders, then feeds and milks it. Then she takes the milk to be processed at the local milk bulking group before the group sells it to the public.

Mrs. Waison has been a dairy farmer for 10 years. She lives in the village of Nangazi, about 35 kilometres south of Blantyre. She is proud of her success—her dairy cow has earned her enough money to build her own home and pay for her three children to go to school.

Radio is one key to her success. She began listening to a radio program called Phindu mu ng’ombe ya kaka, or “Dairy value chains.” The show targets small-scale dairy farmers who want to increase their milk production, and helps them improve each step of their farming practice.

Before Mrs. Waison started listening, she collected 15 litres of milk a day from her cow. Now the cow produces 20 litres a day.

Mrs. Waison did not know that small, seemingly unimportant factors could reduce milk yield. But she learned from the radio program that her cow needs a clean and comfortable shed or it will be prone to disease. If the cow falls sick, production will decrease, just as it will if the cow doesn’t eat enough good-quality feed.

She says, “I have learnt how to take better care of the cow itself—because it is the one that produces milk.”

Unlike farmers who grow crops such as groundnuts or soya beans, dairy farmers do not follow a regular, seasonal pattern of planting, harvesting and marketing. Instead, they must pay attention to details such as: when their cows are due to come in to heat, when they are likely to calve, and when to stop milking so that cows get enough rest before the next cycle of lactation.

By listening to the radio program, dairy farmers like Mrs. Waison have learnt to keep detailed records of all the factors affecting their cows. She says: “At first I had no idea how to keep the records. [But I know now] that when I don’t have enough income from selling milk, it means that something didn’t go right. Maybe the milk went sour and I have to record why I had those losses.”

For Mrs. Waison, the most interesting part of the program is learning how to best look after her cow. She also appreciates that she and other farmers can hear their own recorded voices on the radio.

She smiles and says, “The radio program has made such a difference to my life.”