In 1996, when Andalwisye Mwakajumba, 61, retired from the armed forces after 20 years of service he opted to move back home to Busokelo district in Mbeya region. His four children were still young and he was determined to give them the best education possible.
After consideration of his options, he used his retirement money to buy two dairy cows. These two cows would grow to educate his children all the way through to university. But the road to living off of the cows wasn’t always easy. His limited knowledge of the care of the special breed of cattle wasn’t quite clear to him, most of what he did was what he observed from neighbours and friends.
Mwakajumba soon joined other dairy farmers in various existing farmers dairy groups in the area to learn some best practices. Knowledge amongst them was still relatively low. Most dairy farmers in the village, grazed dairy cattle on pastures across the area similar to indigenous cows, a practice that they were all too familiar with.
Through the farmer’s groups, they were able to produce an initial 150 litres a day in a group, a relatively small amount in comparison to the potential of the cattle breeds they had. But the dairy farmers weren’t convinced to do much more, considering the market forces. For those who did sell milk to the market their return on investment was very meagre and inconsistent.
“We were pouring the milk, it was frustrating, we didn’t know what to do,” Mwakajumba recalls. He had 5 dairy cows at the time and had no idea how to salvage the situation.
In 2017, the farmers of Busokelo opted to form a farming association, Utambuzi Dairy Association. An association Mwakajumba now chairs.
“We felt it gave us more bargaining power instead of selling in the smaller groups we had to the market. As a registered association, people would take us more seriously.” Mwakajumba observes.
In 2012, farmers across the 9 groups in Busokelo village registered as members of the Utambuzi Dairy Association, with 710 farmers supplying the association with its milk for sale to a wider market.
In the same year, through SAGCOT partner, Tanzania Livestock Research Institute (TALIRI) – Uyole, the farmers received training on rearing and nutrition of their cattle. The farmers put this into practice and were soon producing more milk. From just 150 litres per day, farmers groups were producing 500 litres per day.
“We learnt how to grow the right grass for our cows, and how best to zero graze our dairy cattle. In Busokelo you don’t see cows grazing, you just see cattle stalls everywhere.” Mwakajumba enthuses, “we thank SAGCOT, through their partners, we have been able to get the right breed of cattle for milk and increase our yield.”
Utambuzi also signed a partnership agreement with ASAS Dairies in March 2017, following the drastic increase in milk supply the farmers had achieved.
“We are extremely grateful to ASAS Dairies because they collect milk from Busokelo village in Mbeya daily. All the way from their factory in Iringa over 400 kilometres away, and they agreed to pay the farmers a favourable rate of TZS 600 per litre.” This price is still 130% higher than the initial pay farmers would receive sporadically from sales in the market.
For Mwakajumba and the growing number of dairy farmers in Busokelo district, the future is bright.
“We want to reach 10,000 litres per day across the 7 villages in the district which have certification from the Busokelo district council authorities to sell milk.” He concludes.