It is starting to get light towards 6 o'clock in the morning and Petronella Kalaluka has just finished milking her seven cows. Pouring the milk into a stainless steel cylinder, she straps it to her bicycle and rides four kilometres to deliver it to the Palabana milk collection centre. Here, the milk is tested for freshness and collected by the processing company.
Petronella, 42, is a small-scale farmer in Zambia’s Chongwe district and, since the introduction of a Milk for Schools project a year and a half ago, she has been a busy woman.
A pilot project supported by the UN World Food Programme and funded mainly by the Swedish International Development Agency, Milk for Schools has created a new market for local dairy producers. Benefitting from it are 18,500 schoolchildren in 39 schools in Nyimba district who get a 250ml bottle of milk at school three times a week.
For Petronella, a mother of six, and her family, the difference has been immense.
“We’ve managed to increase our number of livestock,” she says. “Before we had four milking cows, now we have seven. “Before, we were delivering 40 to 45 liters per day. Now, we are able to deliver 50 to 55 liters per day and this is after we have removed some milk to feed our calves.”
Petronella can now afford to pay her nephew to work as a farm hand and in October last year, she sunk a borehole on her property. Her family now has running water in the house and the animals’ troughs are daily filled with fresh water.
“We’re now able to take our children to school,” she says “We’ve got children who go to college, secondary school, primary school and we are now able to pay for their tuition fees.”
So busy has the Palabana milk collection centre become that it is now receiving some 4,000 litres a day – up from around 500 liters per day before Milk for Schools.
Price remains high
Jeremiah Kasolo, Executive Manager of the Dairy Association of Zambia, says that the processing company has been able to increase the volumes of milk they handle by having a guaranteed market for their product. The constant demand means that the price paid to the farmers remains high.
The project partners include the Zambian Ministries of Agriculture & Livestock, Tetra Pak, Parmalat, the Dairy Association of Zambia and the National Food and Nutrition Commission.