World Milk Day: The vital role of dairy cows on smallholder African farms

Wednesday 1st June 2022 marks World Milk Day, created by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), to recognise the importance of milk as a global food.

To mark World Milk Day, we, thought we would share some of our impactful work and how its changing the lives of farming families in rural Africa and in particular, how our farmers care responsibly for their communities, their families, the land and their animals.

“In most African communities, livestock are an integral part of our agricultural system. They provide protein, bring higher returns for farmers, and their dung and urine regenerate depleted soils. They are a crucial safety net.”

Laurent Munyankusi Country Director, Ripple Effect Rwanda

Improved nutrition

Cows provide a vital source of dairy and nutrition for often under-nourished families and children, providing protein, calcium, and other essential minerals to aid healthy development. Children whose diets are supplemented with dairy products grow 0.4cm taller each year for each cup of milk they drink a day.

Through milk, cheese, yoghurt and other dairy produce, families can greatly increase the number of different food types they are consuming in their diet, better supporting healthy growth and a more-balanced diet. As the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) says:

Income generation and savings

Families are encouraged to sell excess milk from their cows enabling them to send their children to school, improve their homesteads, buy transport such as a bike and grow their income generating sources.

“The cow has helped to increase our incomes and to top up on school fees, while providing manure for our gardens.”

Namagembe Uganda

“hen the pregnant Jersey cow gave birth, we got enough milk. This milk was a source of food and income to our family. We consumed enough milk at home and the surplus were sold to get money which help us to pay school fees and buy a plot of land.”

Domina Rwanda

Care for the land

Through our projects, we equip farmers in sustainable agricultural practices which include composting, using cow manure to add nitrogen and cellulose-digesting bacteria to compost, growing fodder and leguminous crops, as well as using innovative natural technologies, such as an organic push-pull pest control farming system.

Domina explained that before having a cow she bought vegetables from the market but now she can produce vegetables from her own land. With manure from her cow, she mixes it with soil from runoff to establish a small garden in an old bucket and other old containers