Milk can go to the pigs in Western Rwanda while children still need it in some other parts of the country.
My eye wandered to media reports last month about poor-quality milk supply from cattle farmers in Western Province.
The farmers produce more milk during the rainy season.
However, this is not always a blessing.
With the rains, milking conditions become difficult and improper milking and poor hygiene leads to cows to suffer from mastitis.
It was reported that only category one and two milk is acceptable to processing plant.
The rest of the milk is rejected.
Sometimes, milk that has been rated category one or two at milk collection centers does not merit the same rating at the factory, leading to feud between farmers, their cooperatives and the milk-plant.
Sufficed to note that tools for testing milk at collection center are in fact given by same recipient milk plant.
At one point, farmers lost 3100lts in one week and it was given to pigs by the milk plant!
The problem of poor-quality milk is recurrent and causes loss to the farmers.
Year in year out local administration and farmers vow to address the challenges but the resolve is blown in the wind.
The root causes of poor milk include inappropriate milk containers, improper milking habits, cows’ health, unsuitable grazing and/or feeds, improper storage and transportation, distance from collection Centre to mention but the main ones.
Whereas such issues may be a challenge, Rwanda has tackled more serious obstacles with remarkable success.
Stakeholders to the problem should take the bull by the horns.
Let the farmers be responsible and not wait to cry foul when they become victims of, partly, own negligence.
Leaving the cows up the mountains to herds-men without checking on them for days is a major omission.
Milk cows need care for healthy milk production while herds-men are only salary earners.
On the other hand, local government should give priority to this issue and mobilize its means to make all stake-holders play their role.
This includes veterinary Doctors/Assistants, Agricultural officers, Heads of farmers’ cooperatives etc…; why should a farmer for example find it hard to get a Vet timely?
Why should milk collection centers still accept jerrycans when they know metal cans are the ideal?
I am informed that jerrycans are convenient when descending steep-slopes on foot as compared to metal cans.
This is indeed true in extremely steep and rough terrain, but the administration could think of a better substitute for both.
It is reported that Mukamira milk processing plant has a capacity of 40,000lts, yet an average of 9,000lts is used per day; leaving an access capacity of 31,000lts.
The most obvious implication of this is that cost per unit of milk is higher than it should be and consumers of milk are limited by price, making it among other things, impossible for the factory to expand.
Mukamira milk plant therefore has more to gain in supporting farmers to resolve the issues than give their milk to the pigs.
Investment returns will be more rewarding.
In Rwandan traditions, pouring milk is so abominable that we don’t even have a word for it.
Kubogora is a Kinyarwanda word literally implying that pouring milk is unheard of.
Let us give our milk deserved treatment and value