By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK Namibia has the potential to produce enough milk to meet its demand if it mobilises the small-scale dairy industry. What has been holding up progress in this regard is the perception that locally processed milk is unhygienic and unsafe. Local milk is retailed at lower prices. It is envisaged that with efficient collecting, processing and marketing systems in place, the quantity of locally produced milk available to processors and consumers could be increased significantly, while the risk from zoonotic diseases such as Tuberculosis could be virtually eliminated. It has also been discovered that despite the fact that many rural communities keep livestock, they benefit very little from the ownership of their animals. In the northern communal areas where lack of cash and economic hardships have led to poverty and malnutrition among others, some farmers try to get an income from milking their animals. But without proper technologies to add value to their milk to increase their returns, milk gets wasted due to spoilage or lack of a market. With this is mind, the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry and the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) have embarked on a pilot project which is aimed at identifying dairy development to improve the livelihoods through organising small-scale milk collection and processing facilities. The pilot project, funded by FAO is based at the Ogongo Agricultural College in the Omusati region. A FAO background and justification document of the project says that there is very little knowledge of proper milk handling on communal farms, as milk is still processed the traditional way with no hygiene and safety measures in place. The FAO noted that there was need to provide technical know-how and practical skills to farmers involved in getting milk and milk products from the farm to the consumer. Having started in 2003, the project has thus far done human resource development for trainers who will train farmers in dairy production and processing. The principal of the college, where the National Dairy Training Centre for the Small Scale Dairy Sector is located, Matthew Mushabati said a farmer’s cooperative, the Ambuga Ekota Dairy Cooperative Society has now been formed. An outreach training programme for farmers of Mangetti was also conducted while infrastructure in the form of dairy processing and facility at the college, laboratory, processing room, display or selling and drying room and an office have been renovated. Other equipment such as pasteuriser, sealer, cooler and packaging equipment have also been provided. Although the project is looking at starting its operations in full swing, Mushabati would not say when this would materialise. The cooperative now has to identify a place where the collection point of milk will be built. The project, says he, will help small-scale farmers, who usually sell their milk along the roadside, to get organised and market the milk, which will fetch better prices. It will also help them add value to the milk and not just sell it in raw form like they are doing at moment. The project according to the FAO, would demonstrate improved low cost practical technologies for small-scale milk collection, including the lactoperoxidase preservation system, as well as farm processing and marketing of butter, buttermilk and fresh cheese. “Butter production from cream, rather than from whole milk, will increase by 50 percent. Village milk processing of pasteurised milk and yoghurt, which can also be used to pack and pasteurise fruit juices will also be demonstrated,” said the FAO document. These technologies allow relatively small volumes of milk and dairy products to be marketed cheaply and safely. Recent studies done in some African and Asian countries indicate that up to six off-farm jobs can be created for each 100 litres of milk collected, processed and marketed by the small-scale sector.