Enabling the economic empowerment of women dairy goat farmers in Malawi

In Malawi, goats are the most common small ruminant, and are raised for meat, milk, hide and manure to improve soil fertility and structure. They are predominantly raised under extensive production (where animals are left to roam freely for part or all of their production life cycle), which is characterised by low-level livestock production and productivity.

The low productivity is mostly due to poor nutrition, seasonal lack of feed, poor breeding practices, goat breeds that have a low productive potential, limited livestock programs for vulnerable communities and the low consumption of small livestock products among underprivileged communities.

In addition to low productivity levels, smallholder farmers (who make up about 80% of the population in Malawi) are yet to generate meaningful incomes from farming, primarily due to the narrow range of enterprises they pursue and poor market access. The Government of Malawi, together with development partners, is focusing on boosting socio-economic development by adopting strategies that will enhance the performance of the agricultural sector, such as value addition in the dairy goat value chain.

Patricia Mayuni is Deputy Director: Animal Health and Livestock Development for the Secretary for Agriculture and Water Development in Malawi. She is also an Australia Awards Alumna, who completed a Masters in Animal Studies at the University of Queensland in 2007. Patricia is making use of the knowledge she obtained to enhance the skills of women dairy goat farmers and to enable them to make a greater contribution to the economy. In 2015, she received an Australia Awards Small Grant valued at AUD15,150 to develop a vibrant dairy goat value chain, with the main goal of empowering women farmers, who tend to lack basic business skills to generate higher levels of revenue from their farming activities.

The project targeted 200 women dairy goat farmers in the Thyolo District of Southern Malawi and had the full support of the local assembly leadership, local leaders and farmer organisations associated with these women participants. “It was an exciting undertaking after the skills I gained in Australia and also after interaction with fellow Alumni who have been implementing different types of development projects in various parts of Africa. I felt so motivated to do something for the rural farming community of Malawi, especially women.”

Patricia introduced women farmers to the idea of increasing the value of raw goat milk through processing, in order for it to fetch higher prices. “Through dairy goat production, these rural households are accessing nutritious food and are able to earn an additional income through goat milk sales and the sale of products like chambiko (sour milk) and yoghurt made from goat’s milk,” Patricia explains.

Throughout the implementation period, she enabled the training of project participants in basic agribusiness concepts such as pricing and using gross margin analysis. The training enhanced the capacity of women dairy goat farmers to engage with the dairy goat value chain by looking for goat milk markets on their own, developed their management skills by making critical decisions about livestock feed and kraal construction, and established a dairy goat value chain model that is user friendly to rural women.

The project has been able to train 12 extension workers, 10 farmer technicians and 180 women farmers. Farmers were also trained in goat production and breeding techniques, and were equipped with skills to perform market sourcing. The women farmers were trained to carry out the value addition of milk and were equipped with skills to make dairy products such as chambiko and yoghurt, and identify markets for these products, not only to increase the keeping quality of their milk, but also to improve the value of their product.

The outcome of the project is an improvement in the capacity of the women dairy goat farmers to earn an income, as well as an improvement in the availability of goat milk markets through training and improved dairy goat extension. The project improved the breeding indices of the goats and milk availability to households with children under five years of age, as well as those living with HIV and the elderly.

“The women and the implementers are very grateful to Australia Awards for the project funding received,” Patricia says. While the project evaluation is still forthcoming, the project participants have agreed to continue with radio programs, particularly on milk marketing (radio teams are in the field making the programs ready for airing), which will help both existing and new dairy goat farmers learn from the training experience and gain from the expert advice received.

Call to action: Encourage dairy goat production: rural households can access nutritious food and earn an additional income through goat milk sales and the sale of supplementary products like sour milk and yoghurt.

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