Esther Marwa posing with part of her dairy herd. In less than a year since venturing into dairy farming, she is a top milk producer at the Nharira-Lancashire Milk Collection Centre in Chikomba district.
Elias Chiweshe leafs through his farm records file as he proudly shows his dairy farming records which he has meticulously kept and updated for the last 24 years. Describing himself as a “Milk Veteran”, the 66-year-old farmer has been involved in dairy farming since 1995.
Pointing to his dairy herd grazing in one of the paddocks, Chiweshe says, “This has been my passion since 1995, when I ventured into dairy production. Currently, I have a herd of six milking cows and I get at least 70 litres of milk per day”.
Operating from his smallholder plot located about 10 kilometres north of Gokwe South Centre in Midlands province, Chiweshe is one of the top milk producers in the district, a record he has maintained for years. He is one of the 60 members of the Gokwe Dairy Farmers Cooperative Society who operate the Gokwe Milk Collection Centre (MCC). Only 34 of the members are actively supplying milk to the MCC.
“I deliver the milk to the Gokwe Milk Collection Centre where I sell for RTG$6.00 per litre (USD0.60). Per month, I earn at least RTGS$1,100 (USD110)”.
Chiweshe is one of the 4,500 smallholder farmers in Zimbabwe who are participating in the Transforming Zimbabwe’s Dairy Value Chain for the Future project (TranZ DV), which aims to address the root causes of underperformance in the dairy value chain in Zimbabwe by strengthening linkages between production, processing and inclusive financing.
One of the project’s key components is the matching grants facility to leverage private sector funding applications, focusing on improving service provision to small-scale dairy farming enterprises. The facility pushes for investments in dairy productive assets and infrastructure and to address some of the bottlenecks and or underlying challenges within the dairy value chain in Zimbabwe. Part of the matching grants facility targets small-scale farmers, breeders and feed entrepreneurs. This window has a 70% - 30% split. TranZ DV provides 70% of the funding and the applicant matches that with 30%.
The matching grants seek to tackle some of the challenges in the dairy value chain which include: high costs of feed; shortage of inputs; limited access to water, limited access to animal vaccines, dipping facilities and chemicals, milking equipment and transport. With the current intermittent supply of energy in the country, the facility is also promoting the use of green energy technology at production and processing nodes of the dairy value chain and also luring of new entrants youths men and women towards a sustainable dairy value chain
Chiweshe has made an application on the matching grants to improve water supply at his farm by drilling a solar powered borehole. Currently, there are two shallow wells that service his homestead and farming activities and the water is not adequate and portable.
He noted the biggest challenge to his operations: “The high cost of feed is one of the challenges I’m facing which is hampering production and reducing his farm margin. However, with access to a reliable source of water, I intend to grow fodder such as giant rhodes, velvet beans, and lab-lab to produce mixed crop silages for my dairy herd. With access to feed I can increase the milk yield to at least 100 - 120 litres per day”, said Chiweshe.
Increased milk yield from providing high protein diets at a lower cost will not only help Chiweshe increase his incomes from dairy, but it will also allow him to expand into other areas of farming. I also intend to install a biogas digester and use the slurry to expand my organic garden and reduce the use of artificial fertilisers. This sort of diversification reduces his exposure to external shocks.
At the Nharira-Lancashire Milk Collection Centre in Chikomba district in Mashonaland East province, Esther Marwa (58) is one of the 34 active members of the 60-nominal member Lancashire Dairy Co-operative.
Marwa maintains a dairy herd of five milking cows and has been involved in dairy production since January 2019. A newcomer in dairy production, within this period, Marwa has risen to be one of the top milk producers within the cooperative, producing at least 95 litres of milk a day.
“Despite the strides I have made, we have a challenge of water at the farm as Chikomba district is a very dry area. I have tried drilling a borehole three times without success.
From the matching grants facility, Marwa intends to establish a weir dam on the nearby river less than a kilometre from her farm.
“Securing funding to establish a weir is my priority. With access to a reliable source of water, my plan is to double the milking herd to at least 10 heifers and significantly increase my milk output.”
At a neighbouring farm, Sibusisiwe Madyangove (67) has been involved in dairy farming since 1991. From her herd of six cows, she produces at least 50 litres of milk per day which she supplies to the Nharira-Lancashire Dairy MCC.
“Supplementary feeding is a critical component of managing your dairy herd to increase productivity. We currently use manual and often tedious methods to produce silage usually from snap corn and velvet beans”, says Madyangove. ‘Dairying was not profitable when I relied on the much more expensive commercial feed,’ she says. Madyangove is delighted with the difference legume-based feeds have made for her milk production. ‘‘It’s no longer business as usual for me,’’ she adds.
Through the Matching Grants facility, Madyangove plans to invest in a chopper grinder to mechanise silage production. The farmers will also be trained to grow forages, produce hay and to make home-based feeds.
“Our biggest impediment currently is the high cost of feed. With a chopper grinder, I will be able to mechanise the processing of feeds using snap corn and velvet beans and increase my milk yield”. I will also improve the hectrage of my lurcene and sell to other farmers since its on demend.
Mangodye also operates a biogas digester which provides gas for cooking and bio-slurry effluent for pasture fertilisation. TranZ DV promotes climate smart innovations, technologies and practices that improve dairy productivity while contributing to climate resilience.
Looking ahead, there is already high demand for the dairy matching grants as farmers seek to optimise production through procurement of dairy productive assets and infrastructure.
For the MCCs, matching grants facility will work to counter some of the challenges in their operations such as: low milk intake, high overheads costs, limited energy access, governance and poor cold chain development. The project aims to transform the MCCs into a dairy hub providing services to the members and the market.