At the Chitsanzo Milk Bulking Group we learned that just one cow can turn around a family’s life. A key challenge facing many smallholder farmers is earning enough money to feed their families and send their kids to school. In Malawi, there is a real need for more dairy producers, because otherwise, milk must be imported from other countries. This makes milk more expensive and does little to grow incomes.
Yet, owning a dairy can more than triple a family’s income and dramatically improve nutrition. That’s why, as part of the US’ Feed the Future Initiative, USAID funds Land O’ Lakes to support local dairy production. The project also helps farmers access improved cattle feed, veterinary care and financial services such as cattle insurance and mobile phone banking.
We met Donata Kuchawo, a 45-year-old married mother of five and caretaker of two orphans, who now sells about 10 liters of milk per day. Through the bulking group, Donata has sent her kids to school, built a home for her family, bought two pigs and other livestock (saving on fertilizer costs for her maize and bean crops) and is hoping to finally receive a female calf from her pregnant heifer. If it’s a girl, the cow will be passed to the next family on the waiting list. The waiting list is a long one. While families can sell steers for 40,000 kwacha (about $250) no one knows the price of a dairy cow –- they are way too valuable to ever sell.