June is Dairy Month but USAID “thinks milk” every day of the year!
June is Dairy Month. Across the globe farmers, small businesses and consumers join together to celebrate the miraculous food that nourishes us all from the first hours of birth through childhood and into lives as healthy, productive adults.
For many groups, especially in drylands of countries like Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia and parts of India, China and Mexico, where water scarcity makes food grain production difficult, milk is the primary source of nutrition, not just for young children but for adults as well. In highland, higher-potential areas found in East Africa and parts of Latin America, producing and marketing milk through cooperatives or through direct sales to traders or households has lifted millions out of poverty and provided the means to a more secure future. Where there are milk producers there is economic growth that underpins community stability and resiliency.
In recognition of milk’s power to transform communities and households, USAID has promoted milk production for more than three decades in its efforts to lift rural families out of poverty and reduce malnutrition.
Over the next four weeks, we will bring you stories on the Agrilinks blog about USAID-supported activities that promote the production, marketing and consumption of milk and dairy products. A select group of USAID partners will tell us about their efforts to increase dairy access for families and to link smallholders and pastoralists to lucrative markets for milk. We’ll also look at the important role milk plays in saving the lives of infants who fall victim to acute malnutrition during periods of conflict and natural disasters.
We’ll start off the month with a report from Rwanda where Land O’Lakes International Development Division in the Rwanda Dairy Sector Competitiveness Project partners with the Government of Rwanda to assure that the “One Family One Cow” program is effective in reducing poverty, improving household nutrition and building and uniting communities among smallholder dairy producers.
From Rwanda we’ll travel to Ethiopia to learn about efforts in the CNFA-led Livestock Market Development (LMD) Project, which assists women producers in the highlands to upgrade the genetic potential of their cows to produce milk and generate income by using frozen semen from selected US dairy bulls.
We ‘ll then move to the dry lands of Ethiopia to hear how the Pastoralist Areas Resiliency Improvement through Market Expansion (PRIME) Project, led by Mercy Corps is assisting the development of a commercial market for camel milk that is produced by women and is in high demand across East Africa.
Moving further south, USAID partner Fintrac will tell us about efforts in the Kenya Agricultural Value Chain Enterprises (KAVES) activity to link vulnerable families in areas characterized by high levels of poverty and malnutrition to the lucrative market for milk that feeds Kenya’s growing urban middle class.
We will then leave Africa and jump to Central America, where Save the Children is implementing a highly successful Food for Peace Development Assistance Project, Programa de Acciones de Seguridad Alimentaria y Nutricional del Occidente (PAISANO), that assists smallholder families in the Western Highlands of Guatemala to produce and market goat milk, providing children in a region characterized by some of the highest levels of stunting in the world with one cup of nutritious milk a day.
Finally, we’ll hear from our partners in the US Dairy Export Council (USDEC) who will remind all of us of the importance of milk powder and milk constituents in the production of ready-to-use therapeutic foods (RUTFs) that are saving the lives of thousands of acutely malnourished children who are victims of natural disasters and man-made conflicts across the globe.
Whether you start out the with a bowl of cereal and milk, come to work in the morning with a fresh “café au lait” picked up at your local Starbucks, or celebrate the weekend with a mozzarella-covered pizza, you are a part of a “milk-enhanced lifestyle” that millions of households in the countries served by USAID and other donors seek to achieve. Thanks to the collaborative efforts of our partner implementing organizations and host government agencies, many households are increasingly able to enjoy the benefits that milk drinking and dairy food consumption bring.
This Dairy Month we urge you to think about how USAID investments in milk production and marketing are diversifying livelihoods and creating income opportunities for the rural poor households and improving the nutrition of vulnerable women and children.
We hope that you will find the stories that follow to be interesting and informative.
Jim Yazman is a livestock sciences specialist in the USAID Bureau of Food Security, Office of Country Support and Implementation.