Nyagatare dairy farmers have secured market to supply milk to home-based Early Child Development (ECD) centres that are being established at the village level. Milk will also be supplied to needy households to ensure all children get access to milk. The idea is to find market for dairy farmers in the district, as well as combatting malnutrition, Mike Katabogama Gatete, the ECD District Coordinator in Nyagatare told The New Times. Gatete said that the exercise to collect milk from dairy farmers to ECDs and needy households started December and it targets children between two and six years of age. Under the plan, dairy farmers in the district supply 70,000 litres of milk per day, with a litre going for Rwf220, Gatete pointed out, adding that the cost is covered by the National Early Childhood Development Programme (NECDP). Gahiga Gashumba, Chairperson of Nyagatare Dairy Farmers’ Union, told The New Times that their milk volume is about 100,000 litres per day, pointing out that the remaining quantity (about 30,000) is supplied to Inyange Industries Ltd – an agro-processing firm. So far, he said that 80,000 children from 1,925 home-based ECDs in Nyagatare’s nine sectors which have milk collection centres (MCCs) are benefiting from the initiative. He added that every child gets half litre of milk per day. “There were about 600 children suffering from malnutrition, but, within this short time, the number has reduced to 141,” Gatete said. Gashumba said that before the initiative, the dairy farmers were struggling to get a ready market for their milk produce. “It was found out that Nyagatare had a malnutrition issue, yet it has plenty of milk. So, in line with addressing that problem, government decided to have milk collection centres collect milk, ensure its quality and distribute it among ECDs [and the vulnerable people],” Gashumba said. “The development means a ready market for dairy farmers’ produce, at the same time a strategy to tackle malnutrition facing children as well as the disadvantaged people,” he expressed. ECDs offer, among other services, promoting optimal child development in critical early years, providing holistic access to early learning, and good nutrition to prevent stunted growth among young children. Other services are fostering hygiene, and enhancing positive parenting and community participation in child protection. Gatete added that “by the end of February, we will be having other ECDs in the remaining five sectors of Nyagatare which do not have milk collection centres,” he said, explaining that each village should have not less than three ECDs. The home-based ECD model works in such a way that in a community, one home is selected to serve as an ECD which receives children from the neighbourhood.