Since 2017, as part of the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Livestock Systems, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and RTI International, the University of Rwanda, and TechnoServe have been implementing a research project that is enhancing the quality and consumption of milk to improve the income and nutrition in Rwanda.
TechnoServe’s work focuses on assessing and enhancing the performance and capacity of dairy producer organizations to improve access to markets for smallholder milk producers.
Building the capacity of producer organizations
One of the project’s strategies for increasing the quantity and quality of milk in the value chain in Rwanda was to build the capacity of producer organizations to profitably procure and supply high-quality milk. Intensive capacity development was done that included training managers and boards of directors of producer organizations on different aspects of dairy cooperative business management and governance. The strategy also focused on closing other capacity gaps that were identified through continuous sustainability assessments.
The sustainability assessments were based on the Agriculture Producer Organizations Sustainability Assessment (AgPOSA) tool. This tool is composed of six priority sustainability dimensions that are applicable to an organization like a smallholder producer organization. It identifies and prioritizes gaps that need to be addressed for the organization to gradually grow into a mature and sustainable collective business. The project tracked the progress of the organizations over time.
To accelerate performance improvements by the producer organizations, TechnoServe also developed a performance support system linked to the AgPOSA outputs. The purpose was to offer targeted in-kind support to four producer organizations whose staff were undergoing intensive capacity building interventions to effectively close the identified capacity and capability gaps. The in-kind support offered was not monetary but rather in tangible ways intended to meet the identified capacity gaps. For instance, two cooperatives namely Cooperative des Eleveurs de Kayenzi, and Koperative amizero y’aborozi received water tanks to mitigate water shortages and milk quality challenges. As part of the in-kind support system, TechnoServe provided each of the producer organizations with a tank (10,000-liter capacity) while the producer organizations contributed by constructing the base of the tanks. The contribution by the producer organizations was intended to convey and instill a sense of ownership. It is expected that with the now readily accessible clean water, milk quality will improve and with it, benefits from premium prices.
In yet another case, Cooperative des Eleveurs Moderne received a cargo tricycle that was paid for by TechnoServe, while the cooperatives ownership stake was to transport it from Kigali to its premises located in Nyabihu District. The cargo tricycle will be used to transport milk from a satellite center to either the PO premises for chilling or directly to the processor.
From the project, it is notable that the in-kind support system to the producer organizations offered numerous benefits to their operations through reduction of costs, enhancing hygiene and milk quality, easing of transportation and access to inputs, as well as job creation – for instance for the cargo tricycle driver. It is anticipated that other cooperatives with similar challenges will adopt the solutions introduced.
ILRI provided the funding that was administered through TechnoServe who served as sub-awardees, and hence actualized the in-kind provisions. Additionally, ILRI and TechnoServe developed the POSA tool which was used during the study. The Agricultural Producer Organisation (AgPrO) tool was developed by Land O’Lakes Venture 37 and part of its elements combined with POSA.
A review of the performance of the producer organizations whose capacity was enhanced showed that:
- Enhancing the performance and capacity of smallholder dairy producer organizations can contribute to increases in quantity and quality of milk in the value chain.
- The producer organization capacity development initiatives need to be participatory, as identification with and ownership of the initiative make success more likely.
- Well targeted in-kind support needs to form a core part of a producer organization’s capacity development since it can potentially accelerate performance improvements.
- Incentivizing producer organizations and other actors to contribute to their key interventions creates shared values, thus boosting project sustainability.
The project is still ongoing and implementing its bid to enhance the quality and consumption of milk to improve the income and nutrition in Rwanda.
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