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'Small-Scale Farmers Key to Zim's Dairy Industry'

12 July 2007

ZIMBABWE - THE two-day National Dairy Symposium held last week was an eye-opener for stakeholders in the dairy sector who had the opportunity to share ideas on the development of the sector with experts from other countries as well as come up with strategies to resuscitate the industry.

A true private sector initiative, the symposium brought together experts from milk-producing countries such as South Africa, Kenya and Ireland who spoke passionately about the need to improve viability and to build the capacity of the smallholder dairy farmer to increase output.

Analysts say lack of private sector participation in development policies coupled with lack of information on agricultural developments in other countries have been the missing link in efforts to resuscitate Zimbabwe's productive sector which is export driven.

They said private sector participation would allow the country to grow the small-scale dairy farmer which is important in efforts to increase milk production in any country. Production by smallholder dairy farmers has been held back by shortages of resources, distance from milk collection points and lack of refrigerated trucks.

This has left the country to rely heavily on large-scale milk producers who have their own problems, but analysts say Zimbabwe cannot succeed in growing its dairy industry without embracing the small-scale and emerging dairy farmer.

Professor John Walsh, a milk development consultant and former director-general of the International Livestock Centre for Africa, said the route taken by the Zimbabwe dairy industry was similar to that taken by countries that have managed to develop their dairy sectors. But this required a firm commitment from both the public and private sector to drive the resuscitation programme.

He said policies should be based on realistic strategies that took into account the strengths and weaknesses of the industry.

"Zimbabwe will need a viable smallholder farmer to develop because the country has had a viable large-scale and commercial dairy sector. The changes that are currently taking place in the country are reflective of the developments elsewhere.

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Source: AllAfrica.com


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