Cows, Community and Cooperation: Ugandan Dairy Farmers Change their Lives
Stories.coop, the world's first global, digital campaign to spread the benefits of cooperation through the tradition of story-telling, featured Land O'Lakes International Development in an article about our work with Uganda's Ntungamo Dairy Association Farmer Cooperative Union and Uganda Crane Creameries Cooperative Union. An initiative of Euricse and the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA), Stories.coop helps to celebrate the 2012 United Nations International Year of Cooperatives.
Written by Kathryn Kruse
May 22, 2012 - Dairy farming is nothing new to the Banyankole tribe of southeast Uganda. The long-horned Ankole cattle have sustained the people for hundreds of years and, in fact, locals say that to be Banyankole you must have at least a few cows and some banana trees. But, while most people in the region engage in some form of animal husbandry, turning a profit from that labor is problematic. Mr. Polly Matsiko tried to sell his product different ways: he took his milk to the side of the road, hoping to entice passers-by to stop, or he sold his few liters to a larger middle-man. The results were not good. Few people traveling the rough mountain roads purchased his milk and he rarely got a good price from anyone. He and his family struggled to survive.
In parts of the United States’ upper Midwest, black-and-white dairy cows dot rolling hills, and, like the Banyankole, farmers here are also old hands at raising and milking cows. For some 90 years, thousands of these farmers have been direct producers or members of cooperatives that supply milk to Land O’Lakes. Most famous for their butter, generations of Americans have topped their toast with the value-added products marketed by Land O’Lakes, the second-largest co-op in the U.S. For many, the name Land O’Lakes is synonymous with home: family meals and full bellies.
Thirty-one years ago, the company launched a nonprofit arm of their company, Land O’Lakes International Development, in order to share their expertise in agriculture and cooperative business planning with struggling farmers in developing countries. Since then, with funding from USAID and USDA, Land O’Lakes International Development has supported more than 260 projects in 76 nations around the world. In 2003, Land O’Lakes became a part of Mr. Matsiko’s life and he decided to take a different approach to selling his milk.
Working with members of his community, Mr. Matsiko helped form the Ntungamo Dairy Association Farmer Cooperative Union (NDAFCU) and he now bulks his milk with other members of the community. The cooperative union’s 1,900 members produce 30,000 liters daily and have a combined volume that grants them real selling power with buyers in the formal market. As a result of this shift, NDAFCU has purchased its own cool tanker trucks to ensure that raw milk does not lose value on the long, hot, bumpy journey to the processing plant.
Through technical assistance provided by Land O'Lakes on producer-owned business models—with a focus on governance, financial reporting and member services—as well as general herd and farm management, Uganda’s network of dairy cooperatives grows stronger. NDAFCU, along with 130 other primary cooperatives, joined the Uganda Crane Creameries Cooperative Union (UCCCU), an organization that enables farmers to have an even higher level of economic empowerment. The region is seeing results: elevated incomes and better schools.
As pure or crossbred dairy breeds such as Jerseys and Holsteins replace the pure long-horned Ankole, milk yields climb. And in a unique act of trust, each month the farmers of UCCCU invest several days’ pay towards the realization of a dream: a member-owned processing plant. The structure now stands complete and UCCCU moves towards financing the equipment needed to make products like yogurt, ghee and pasteurized milk. In the meantime, dairy farmers throughout the region display photos of the construction site, proud to be equal partners in the transformation of their lives.
To read more about our work through the United States Agency for International Development's (USAID) Cooperative Development Program, click here