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How FrieslandCampina WAMCO boosts Nigeria’s local milk sourcing

Nigeria has the fifth largest cattle herd in Africa, behind Ethiopia, Sudan, Chad and Tanzania, according to Live GAPS, an organisation that maximises yields in livestock systems for poverty alleviation, global food security and sustainability.

Estimates show that Africa’s most populous nation has 34.5 million goats, 22.1 million sheep and 13.9 million cattle as of 2012. Many experts disagree with this number, saying that it is insufficient data that has confined the country to the back-end position on the continent. However, Live GAPS believes that 99 percent of the country’s cattle are indigenous breeds while only one percent is exotic and improved dairy cattle found primarily in the central region.

Research has found that most of the indigenous breeds cannot produce enough milk owing to traditional practices of herders such as nomadic orientation, overcrowding at the feed bunk, diet, among others.

This explains why raw milk production in Nigeria is still less than 10 percent. In 2010, Friesland Campina WAMCO started a Dairy Development Programme (DDP) to change the trajectory and now sources some of its milk from local Fulani farmers.

The Dutch dairy company has assisted 20 firms to set up ranches or farms where exotic and indigenous breeds are crossbred to produce genetically strong cattle that can adapt to the Nigerian environment and produce sufficient milk.

Moyosore Olatunde Rafiu owns one of those farms in Olara community in Iseyin, Oyo State. As the chief executive of Genius Integrated Farms, he owns 25 cross-bred cattle and 32 indigenous cows. On a visit to his farm, it was observed that 12 lactating indigenous cows were only able to produce about 10 litres of milk, meaning that each could not even produce one litre per day.

Alhaja Agba Galadimma with her grand daughter, Layola Aminat at their Akele farm

However, in the same farm, Rafiu confirmed that with the help of FrieslandCampina WAMCO, each of the cross-bred cows was able to produce up to 10 litres per day.

“As I am, I am better off than someone with 500 indigenous cows,” he said.

Rafiu has also been able to grow pastures on the farm, having confined his livestock in a particular position. The cattle are healthier and they produce 120 litres per day.

The number of litres could, perhaps, be fewer than 30 were he not cross-breeding the cattle, experts say.

Nigeria’s first female artificial inseminator Deborah Atunbi said that cross-breeding is one of the best ways Nigeria could take its rightful place in milk production on the continent, as it would increase milk yield and produce cows that could adapt to the Nigerian environment.

In Maya, one of the communities where the DDP is also going on, President of Ifesiwakan Maya Cooperative Saliu Isah, explained that the milk supply has improved his income and livelihood. He said there are more than 50 cattle farmers in Maya supplying milk to the Dutch company, with each earning thousands of naira per day. He said he supplies 130 to 140 litres each day, earning up to N10,000 each day.

In each of the milk collection centres, the farmers have cooperative societies, which help them save money. Apart from that, each member collects money in bulk when faced with challenges or difficulties.

The milk collection points have also helped to bring harmony in communities where they are sited. The project has enabled Fulani men and women to live in Yoruba communities without problems. The Fulani people speak Yoruba, eat their food and behave like them, thereby breeding harmony in those communities. As cows are sited in one place, the regular farmer-herder tensions rarely occur in the communities.

In Akele, Alhaja Agba Galadimma explained that the women in the community are happy as they now have market for their products. Before then, the raw milk used to be sold as cheese, but FrieslandCampina WAMCO now provides a viable market for them. She supplies up to 30 litres per day. There is also a cooperative society in the farming community, consisting of over 50 women.

Galadimma said the milk supply helps them to properly feed their families and send them to school. Her granddaughter Layola Aminat is already in the university, thanks to the business.

FrieslandCampina WAMCO is expanding its DDP scheme, which is otherwise called backward integration. The company has set up milk collection centres and bulking plants in Fasola, Maya, Iseyin, Akele and other communities in Oyo State.

There are currently 27 milk centres from where milk used in producing Peak Milk, Three Crowns is collected –something no other company in the industry has had the courage to do. The company is now setting up in several other states, including Niger, Nasarawa and Abuja.

Olayiwola Adekunle John, general manager, Dairy Development, said the company takes food hygiene seriously.

“We train the farmers on hygiene and good manufacturing practice,” he said.

“What we do here is that we work with time in terms of milk collection. It usually starts at 7am and ends around 10am. We have specific type of milk cans, and the reason behind that is to make sure that milk is collected in a hygienic way.”

He explained that use of plastics would increase the bacterial load, which is why the Dutch company does not consider plastics hygienic.

He further said that FrieslandCampina often carries out a series of tests to ensure that the milk brought to it is fit for human consumption.

One of such tests is the hygiene test, and another one is the resazurin test, which is meant to test whether the milk is fit for human consumption or not.

“If it passes the test, we do dirt estimation to check if the milk has sediments. After then, we do lactometer test to check for adulteration. If it passes that test, we do the anti-baterial test,” Olayiwola said.

He said other tests would also be carried out to ensure that the final products were of local and international quality and standards. He noted that the milk brought by the herders was always cleaned to ensure it was good.

“We train farmers on how to treat their cows,” he said.

He said the company’s extension workers were always visiting farmers to train them, noting that farmers now get digital training from the company.

The DDP programme is in line with the visions of the World Milk Day on June 1st, a day in which families and communities are encouraged to drink milk for healthy living. With the programme, experts believe that Nigerians will be able to drink sufficient healthy milk that will boost their immunity and fight malnutrition.

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