Today we visited the Fisenge Milk Collection center, which was formed under the umbrella of the established Kapelembe Dairy Project. About 25 women, members of the local dairy co-ops, welcomed us to their facility and shared some of their learnings. This was one inspiring group of tenacious women with big dreams for the future!
The land, building and 1,500 liter tank is owned by members from 8 co-ops within a 20 km radius. Milk is delivered daily by producers by whatever source of transport is available (foot, bike or car). Parmalat—a multinational Italian dairy and food corporation—picks up the milk 3 times a week for further distribution.
Their challenges are many. The issue of the day seemed to be locating stainless steel milk cans (20 and 40 liters) to help transport the milk. Only aluminum cans and/or plastic jugs can be found in Zambia. They experienced a power outage as a result of the local power; Zesco shut them down because their breaker switch did not meet code. Additionally, the women discussed the access to water (for livestock, households and crops) being an issue for their members. This is a recurring theme throughout Zambia. Availability is not an issue with high water tables throughout the country, but accessing it is. They want to have more training on crop/pasture production, but they need to solve the water access problem first.
One exciting challenge from the group is that so many families have been helped through the passing of the gift of animals that they now need to look for a bigger storage tank to hold all the milk being produced in the area.
The women are now discussing how to take their operation to the next level. They want education on pasteurization equipment they could purchase, and are even considering how to package their own brand of milk and sell it locally at a more affordable price for local Zambians. They are also looking for opportunities to get their milk into the local schools so the nutrition and health of the local children will improve.
The group was recently successful in obtaining loans from a local financial institution. They purchased two new tractors and other equipment. Members of the Co-op are able to rent out the equipment for use at a reduced rate.
These people are seeing success. For most, it started with the gift of a single dairy cow. One woman indicated she is milking 8 cows and her husband is milking 5. Together, they inspire each other and are making things happen! With each hurdle they cross, they realize they can take on the next one, and the next. This was truly an example that gave me hope for the future for Zambians.