While addressing both chambers of Parliament a fortnight ago, Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente said that Rwanda’s milk production increased by 17 percent, rising from 700,267 metric tonnes in 2015 to 816,791 metric tonnes in 2017.
This means that over 2.2 million litres of milk are produced every day and is consumed commercially or domestically.
The Spokesperson for the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (Minagri), Ange Soubirous Tambineza, told The New Times last week that milk is no longer being produced from specific milk-sheds but, instead, thanks to various initiatives to increase milk production both for domestic consumption and processing, especially through the Girinka scheme, milk is now coming from almost every village of the country.
Girinka programme is a cattle stocking programme that targets the most vulnerable among communities.
Drivers of dairy progress
Talking about factors that contributed to the increase of milk in 2017, Tambineza cited improvement in Girinka, which saw the number of cows given to needy households go up, the improved quality of dairy cows, and the growing storage of fodder as well as use of factory-produced animal feed to properly nourish cows for enhanced productivity even during dry spells.
Today, over 313,000 cows have been given out under the programme against the target of 350,000 cows by the end of the financial year 2017-2018.
Other dynamics, Tambineza said, include proper handling of cattle through good farming practices such as vaccination and treatment of diseases as well as improvement of cow breeds through artificial insemination.
Tambineza said that the improvement of the local cow breeds by means of artificial insemination boosted milk production, pointing out that the share of local breed dropped from about 100 per cent in 1995 to 38 per cent in 2017.
About 54 per cent of cows were cross-bred in 2017, while 8 per cent were pure breed.
“A cross-breed cow produces between 8 and 10 litres of milk per day, while the pure breed can lactate up to 30 litres. So if you have such highly lactating cows from a cow that was producing about one litre per day, there is great improvement,” she said.
“We have not yet maximised milk production. People will continue being trained. If they can engage in best farming practices, there is a chance to further improve production,” she said.
The Chairperson of National Dairy Farmers’ Federation of Rwanda (NDFFR), Gahiga Gashumba, told The New Times that the increment of milk was obvious, observing that almost the same quantity of milk as that traded through formal market, enters the informal market.
“Constant market ensured by dairy processing factories motivated farmers to produce more milk. Boreholes, powered by solar systems and water dams, also helped dairy farmers get water for their cows, addressing the issue of long distance or shortage of water in remote areas which affected cows before, hence contributing to increased milk produce,” he said.
The Managing Director of Inyange Industries Ltd, James Biseruka, said that the firm is getting enough milk supply today which will help them mazimise the capacity of their three factories.
They include Kigali-based plant, which processes about 100,000 litres per day; Inyange Savannah Dairy in Nyagatare (about 40,000 litres per day); and Mukamira Dairy, which opened in November 2017, processing 50,000 litres per day.
“More efforts should be put in ensuring that milk goes through collection centres because it helps in controlling its quality, and eases access by processing factories,” he said.
The 2013 National Dairy Strategy, designed by the Ministry of Agriculture, involved the increase of production of milk to 810 million litres in 2017 to keep pace with population growth and to be on track to reach 80 litres of milk consumption per person per year by 2020.
Laurence Mukampunga, a mother of six, was left with the full responsibility of providing for her children when her husband passed away as a result of injuries sustained during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
At the time, she was 43 and struggling to even provide for basic needs to her children.
But, as one of the early beneficiaries of Girinka programme, the scheme gave her a considerably improved prospect of life.
“When my six children started drinking milk, they started looking better and managed to study,” she said.
She observed that the one cow she was offered under the programme helped her grow and today, she owns five cows. She has also managed to pass on one cow to another needy household as per the Girinka principle of sharing.
“My five children managed to complete their university education, one is still studying. I built a house worth over Rwf4 million. And, I no longer go to the market to buy foodstuff such as beans, sweet potatoes, vegetables and potatoes because I grow them myself and have good yield as a result of manure from my cows,” she says.
Today, she sells about 25 litres of milk per day from one cow, at Rwf200 a litre, to a milk collection centre.
Rwanda’s dairy exports amounted to $13 million for 11,252 metric tonnes in 2017.