Milk safety: Increasing quality and consumption in Rwanda

A dairy sector competitiveness programme in Rwanda has instituted a dual-pronged approach to improve smallholder milk production, increase consumer demand and provide regulatory support for safe, high quality products. A recognised certificate of quality is awarded to those farmers meeting the standards.

This smallholder farmer's children drink milk every morning before school. © Land O'Lakes International Development

Dairy product safety in Rwanda is being improved by a dairy sector competitiveness programme (RDCP II), which is enhancing farmers’ expertise in the areas of improved feeding for dairy cows, herd health, milk quality and handling, and reproductive management. The USAID programme, implemented by Land O’Lakes, is enhancing farmers’ incomes by enabling them to supply larger quantities of unspoiled milk to milk collection centres and large dairy processors. Demand for milk and milk products has also been increased following the development of marketing campaigns on the nutritional benefits of milk, which have reached 1.6 million consumers.

The dairy sector contributes 6% to the Rwanda’s national GDP. However, raw milk and other dairy products sold through informal markets can pose significant health risks, potentially transmitting diseases such as bovine brucellosis and tuberculosis from infected cows. Smallholder farmers often lack the necessary financial access and infrastructure to ensure cleanliness, proper storage and temperature control at every stage of dairy production, which jeopardises product safety.

Issues of product quality are also a hindrance to business growth for larger dairy processors. “We used to reject 60% of milk coming from milk collection centres across the country. This limited our ability to increase milk volumes and create value-added dairy products,” says Chris Kabalira, marketing and sales manager at Rwanda’s largest dairy processor, Inyange Industries. In 2012, RDCP II provided farmers with milk production and quality training, and milk collection centres with tailored business and equipment training to improve operations. “Rejection at the milk collection centres is nearly 0%, and due to the improvements in quality, our milk processing volume has increased from 20,000 to 100,000 l a day,” says Kabalira.

In collaboration with the Rwanda Agriculture and Livestock Inspection Services, RDCP II implemented a Seal of Quality programme in 2013. The Quality certificate is awarded by the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI) to actors in the milk supply chain as recognition and reward for meeting safe handling standards and requirements. “Milk is an extremely perishable product and if not handled and treated correctly can result in a loss of income to the people who need it most. The Seal of Quality programme is therefore designed to reward quality and begins at the farm level,” says Ernest Ruzindaza, MINAGRI permanent secretary.

Consumer demand for milk and milk products has been increased through targeted messaging on the importance of milk consumption and household nutrition. The RDCP II Shisha Wumva dairy consumption campaign has extended community outreach through radio slots, parade floats, billboards and signs across the country. Such efforts have reached 1.6 million consumers and milk consumption per person has increased from approximately 40 l in 2012 to 59 l in 2016.

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Sophie Reeve

The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) is a joint international institution of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States and the European Union (EU). CTA operates under the framework of the Cotonou Agreement and is funded by the EU.