Youth in Sembabule District have embarked on a value-addition campaign to compensate for the decline in the price of milk, the main income earner for most cattle farmers in the district.
Like in many other milk-producing parts of the country, since mid-last year, milk prices in the district have fallen from a peak of shs.800 per-liter to as low as shs.300, with other farmers struggling to get ready buyers entirely.
Now, in a bid to compensate for lost incomes, youths in the sub-counties of Kawanda and Rugushulu under their umbrella Sembabule Yoghurt, Ghee Youth Network have chosen to add value to the milk and market its by-products instead, specially zeroing in on Yoghurt and Cheese production.
“We realized that many farmers in this area were competing for a small market of milk, and when there is bulky produce during the rainy season, the prices drastically fall, gravely affecting the livelihoods of many farmers. And every year, the cycle repeats itself. So we have decided to think outside the box, to bring to the market other bi-products that can provide alternative income,” says Joseph Ssali, the Network’s chairperson.
In 2018, the Network approached Sembabule District Farmers Association SEDFA for support, after which the latter, impressed by the former’s ambition and drive, agreed to support them.
Through a partnership with a Swedish development organization- VI Agroforestry, SEDFA offered to train Sembabule Yoghurt, Ghee Youth Network members in cheese and yogurt making and equipped them with a start-up kit comprising of a deep freezer, milk cans, a ghee separator, and saucepans to kick-start the project.
The Network now has seven primary groups spread across the two sub-counties according to Ssali, and with 30 members each, these supply milk on planned schedules, to ensure a constant supply.
The milk is then collected at the group’s work station in Kyabi trading center, where it is converted into yogurt and ghee.
Ssali told theCooperator that the network now produces 300 liters of yogurt per week, with each liter of the finished product being sold at shs.4000. “We have a target of producing at least 1,200 liters of yogurt and 1,000 kilograms of ghee per week. This way, we will have successfully created a reliable alternative income earner for the farmers,” he says.
With their homemade, value-added bi-products, the group currently prides itself in being the first organized local producers and distributors of Yoghurt and Ghee in Sembabule district.
Ssali says they are now looking to building a strong brand of unique probiotic yogurt and ghee products to market beyond Sembabule and the neighboring Gomba districts.
Julius Ssebuliba, the Network’s marketing coordinator says they are considering widening their supply to supermarkets and shops in urban centers of the greater Masaka area, in the hope that such enhanced visibility and market will give them mileage to expand the business.
He says that the network’s primary groups are now forming among themselves a Savings and Credit Cooperative Organization-SACCO, so as to become financially self-sustaining through collective saving.
“The idea is that our members can get involved into other enterprises at the individual household level to avoid overreliance on this project that may cripple its growth,” he says.
Godfrey Bitakalamire, the SEDFA Chief Executive Officer says they are grateful that their investment is bearing fruit. “Most of our farmers are largely dependent on rain-fed agriculture, hence the challenge of price fluctuation. Until we collectively appreciate the challenges we face and invest in solutions prioritizing value addition, our farmers will remain stuck and susceptible to exploitation,” he noted.
Bitakalamire says that although SEDFA’s partnership with the Uganda Diary Cooperation has partly aided farmers’ needs by providing market linkages and providing milk coolers in some parts of the district, they still need more homemade solutions to help the ordinary small scale farmers.