Livestock is an integral part of the agricultural sector in Eritrea. In 2022, agriculture contributed 21.09% to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and livestock contributed largely to this number. Cattle rearing is the most popular form of livestock production.
Cattle are used for ploughing and draught power, and as a source of meat and milk especially among rural small-scale farmers. However, the productivity of dairy and local cows is low, averaging ten and one point five litres of milk per day, per cow, respectively. This affects household milk consumption which is estimated to be at twelve litres annually.
Low quality forage at communal grazing land and poor supplementary feeds leads to low productivity and the reproductive performance of the cattle. Continuous open land grazing further causes deforestation and loss of fertile topsoil which make it even more difficult for farmers to find nutritious forage for their animals especially outside of the rain season.
To address cattle productivity and create dairy value chains, Vita with support from its cooperating partners and the Eritrean government, is implementing The Forage Based Diary Production project.
The project promotes the introduction of modern animal husbandry, pasture management and forage development, development and commercialisation of the dairy industry and value addition.
Luula is one of the of the famers that has benefitted from the project. Luula had always dreamt of becoming a dairy farmer. In 2014, her dream came true. She received a pregnant heifer and a butter churner from project. Through monthly technical follow-ups and yearly training sessions, she gained expertise in managing a dairy enterprise, has been able to multiply her animal herd and started a milk value addition enterprise.
She is now a small-scale butter producer in her community. She sells her products at the local market through the market linkage that was create as part of project activities. The readily available market means Luula can sell her butter for a good price.
“The butter churner has been a life saver. With it, I make butter that I sell to my community at a good price. During the Coptic Orthodox fasting season- a period when most of us to not consume any animal products, I still collect my milk and turn it into Ghee for extended shelf life. This has not only enabled me make more money from my milk but has eliminated spoilage during the fasting season. Therefore, enabling me have an income all year round” she said.
The butter churner provided by the project was instrumental in Luula’s success. The churner allows her to produce high-quality butter consistently, increased her productivity and profitability.
As a result of the increased income from the sale of butter, Luula has built a house for herself and family, meets her household needs, has created employment for youths in her community, purchased additional dairy cows and can afford to buy quality feed her animals.
Farmers in the area have also received improved forage seeds that they grow for their animals.