“We used to desperately sell a litre of milk at RWF 80 but now thanks to negotiation and other skills we acquired from SNV advisors, we are able to sell it at RWF150 and hope to get more in the near future; it’s no longer an issue to get school fees for our children or pay for family medical insurance”, said Kanyarwanda Gaston a CEPTL member.
The story starts hardly a year ago with the sector’s inception. SNV dairy sector helped support this dairy cooperative that has drawn close to 900 farmers out of poverty. Known to its members as Coopérative des Eleveurs pour la Production et la Transformation du Lait (Farmers’ cooperative for milk production and processing), CEPTL was founded in 2007 in Burera district, Cyanika sector; it acquired the milk collection Infrastructure (MCC) and milk handling equipment through the Livestock Infrastructure Support Project (LISP) under the Ministry for Agriculture and Animal Husbandry and through its members contribution of RWF 20,000,000 (EUR 22,000) in 2013.
The members of the co-operative are formerly small holder farmers who kept cows for subsistence milk production and as a result derived little gain from it. SNV support focused on training the farmers to produce quality milk by using the best feeds, timely Artificial Insemination using semen of selected breeds, as well as maintaining hygiene and cattle health. The farmers were also taught to market their milk through good market intelligence, business planning, record keeping, managing their finances and focusing on quality.
Despite their brief stint, CEPTL has been making profits and volume of milk is now rising. The farmers now project to put up a Community processing Centre, where they will start to process their own milk and produce yoghurt. They also plan to put up a business service centre where dairy farmers -CEPTL members and non-members- will have easy access to farm inputs, products and services using a milk check off payment system.
CEPTL is one of 19 MCCs supported by SNV, in the Gishwati milk basin. SNV is currently working on establishment of farmer groups linked to the cooperative that will help in addressing the farmer needs (inputs and extension) and at the same time increase supply of quality raw milk to the MCC/ Cooperative. Through linkages with the private sector buyers, the program is planning to explore the establishment of a quality based milk payment system that will enable farmers obtain a premium price for good quality milk delivered.