Sustaining livelihood through dairy farming

Blantyre. If you asked Yohane Chaoloka to choose between tobacco and dairy farming, his choice would always tilt towards the latter.

The 55 year old farmer abandoned growing Malawi’s green gold ten years ago.

Chaoloka, a resident of Mkomba Village in the area of Traditional Authority Kaphuka in Dedza, is now a full time dairy farmer without an iota of regret.

He owns six dairy cows that produce about 120 litres of milk a day. His income as an average rural farmer is admirable.

I make K4, 300 on a daily basis. It is a rewarding agricultural practice than tobacco production which is too involving, says Chaoloka.

Dairy farming is taking him to greater heights of success than tobacco farming did. Now he is able to support the livelihood of his family.

I am able to pay K180, 000 per term as school fees for my child, he says.

Apart from generating income, the cattle he owns also provide manure that has so far boosted his maize production from 50 to 200 bags per annum.

The fortune out of dairy farming is also helping Chaoloka acquire more assets. He currently owns an oxcart, which helps with household works and generates income through hiring. Recently, he just bought a plot where he wants to construct a house.

On top of that, Chaoloka also owns a biogas plant that produces methane he uses for domestic cooking.

Chaoloka’s exploits and success are a result of hard work inspired by the introduction of the Capacity Building for Managing Climate Change in Malawi (CABMACC), a project by the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR).

CABMACC is designed to evaluate feeding and breeding technologies to enhance milk production and build resilient in farmers in the face of climate change impacts.

The project focuses on smallholder dairy farmers like Chaoloka in the drought prone district of Dedza with the aim of finding environment friendly farming methods that would also boost milk production in the process.

CABMACC also trains farmers on how they can make alternative and relatively cheaper dairy mash and equip them with appropriate management skills in animal husbandry.

Since the project rolled out, over 100 farmers have benefited from the initiative.

Dzaone Wekha Milk Bulking Group in Dedza, where Yohane Chaoloka is a member, is one of the groups benefiting from CABMACC project.

Chairperson for the group Ignasio Mkakama says members now have the capacity to produce feeds for enhancement of milk production while conserving the environment.

Usually, the people do not take their cattle for grazing. Instead, they collect maize stalks, maize bran and legumes to feed their livestock.

This type of feed is better than depending on grass alone and this practice is good for maintaining vegetative cover unlike the grazing system, says Mkakama.

So far, the project has helped to identify appropriate adaptation and mitigation measures in smallholder dairy production through breeding and feeding based technologies, according to Hilson Limbe, Senior Assistant Veterinary Officer for Mayani and Kaphuka Extension Planning Areas (EPAs.

These technologies are practical, cost effective and have the potential to increase dairy productivity, says Limbe.

Apart from promoting economic activities, the benefits of the project also spill to the social aspect of life through promotion of women empowerment and gender equality.

There are more female farmers benefiting from the project with most of them involved in leadership and other key decision-making positions, Limbe says.

Principal Investigator for CABMACC Dairy Project Liviness Banda says the intervention targets smallholder farmers in drought and flood prone areas in Dedza such as Mayani, Kaphuka and Linthipe EPAs.

The choice of the district, Banda says, was based on the high number of food insecure households due to frequent droughts and floods.

Furthermore, malnutrition levels were also one of the determining factors.

The three EPAs have high malnutrition rates among vulnerable groups including under-five children, pregnant women and the elderly, Banda says.

The global milk industry has been growing in recent years with production hitting 29 million litres in 2016, according to a World Dairy Situation Report by the International Dairy Foods Association.

Despite that production, market prices remain low in some countries including Malawi where prices are twice lower than those offered in other southern African countries such as Zambia and Zimbabwe.

We always have a problem with milk processors who buy our milk at low prices. Their argument is that they want to recover their money by making profits as well since government impose high tax on milk products, says Kadauma Mtera, clerk of Dzaone group.

He calls on authorities to intervene saying that failure to do so would always leave the milk industry bruised and stagnant.

Such a development is likely to leave farmers like Yohane Chaoloka hopeless after abandoning production of tobacco, a crop whose future remain uncertain because of global measures that are discouraging its production.

Source: Malawi News Agency MANA