A Danish-Ethiopian project is on the way to making better use of the milk from Ethiopia’s 11 million dairy cows and to improve the nutrition of low-income families in the country.
If all goes according to plan, a healthy, fortified, and locally produced yoghurt will be on the market by 2019 – at a price that most families can afford.
The three-year project is driven by the GAIN Nordic Partnership, with Arla Foods Ingredients as lead business partner.
The project is financially supported by Denmark’s development cooperation agency, DANIDA, while the Confederation of Danish Industry, which represents 10,000 Danish businesses, is helping to develop the business model.
By drawing on their collective strengths, the partner’s goal is to reach low income consumers in Ethiopia, who often live on diets that lack the essential vitamins and nutrients needed to grow properly, live healthy lives, and raise a healthy family.
The main target groups for the project are children under seven years old and mothers, who are more vulnerable to malnutrition, particularly during pregnancy and lactation.
Following several field trips to Ethiopia, the GAIN Nordic partners have begun to cooperate with two local dairy companies, which will produce the yoghurt for sale in Ethiopian markets and kiosks.
DanChurchAid is working with the smallholder farmers, who supply the dairies with milk, to improve their milk quality and the yield from each cow.
This supply chain approach is closely aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDG8 to promote sustainable economic growth and decent work, and SDG2 to improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.
“Initiatives that create value for all partners are the way forward for ensuring long-term improvements to health and living standards in a developing country,” says Charlotte Sørensen, Senior Project Manager at Arla Foods Ingredients.
Arla Foods Ingredients is currently developing the yoghurt recipe for production in Ethiopia and a few pilot tests with the initial yoghurt recipe have produced promising results.
The company is using its whey permeate, an ingredient rich in milk minerals and lactose, to maximise the dairies’ yoghurt production and ensure a good taste and texture.
The yoghurt will be further fortified with a mix of vitamins and minerals, which are lacking in the current diets of these consumers.
Following that, the task is to transfer Arla Foods Ingredients’ knowledge to the two dairy companies in Ethiopia, upgrading their existing processing methods. The dairy representatives will then complete their formal training in 2018 at the Arla Foods Ingredients application centre in Denmark. Once the training session is completed, the dairy companies will be ready to run commercial-scale trials.
“That’s when we make sure the yoghurt can be produced safely and always with the same good quality,” Ms Sørensen says.
In the meantime, GAIN will lead the effort to raise public awareness of the importance of good nutrition and the role of milk-based products. This will include encouraging vulnerable consumers – such as children and pregnant or breastfeeding mothers who are exempt from Ethiopia’s frequent fasting tradition – to include more dairy nutrition in their diets.
Charlotte Pedersen, GAIN’s Senior Advisor, explains: “Mothers and children have the biggest need for good nutrition. If they consume more dairy products, the demand for dairy becomes more stable, making it easier for the dairy processors to expand their production, as well as for smallholder dairy farmers to secure market access.”
Significant progress has been made since the GAIN Nordic partners made their first trip to Ethiopia in 2014. The launch of this three-year Danida-supported project in September this year is, in itself, the result of a strong collaborative effort.
“Supporting the development of a sustainable dairy supply chain is also a good business opportunity and it’s highly motivating to experience how our own expertise can make a difference for Ethiopia’s many malnourished children,” says Ms Sørensen.