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Pathway for Change

Nigeria is among the fastest growing nation in the world. Its population is set to reach close to 400M by 2050.  The Nigerian dairy sector is currently only able to supply less than 10% of the country’s demand for dairy products, a gap expected to grow in line with population growth.

Nigeria’s 180 million residents is a market of about 1.7 million tons of milk annually and increasing rapidly. This means a huge market for locally produced milk and dairy products, which is currently estimated at 700,000 tons of milk per year. The growing demand, naturally, can only be met at a huge import cost in the short term, but what if the local milk supply can be amplified?

Dairy development knowledge Centre

The dairy development knowledge centre created by FrieslandCampina plays an important role in this respect. The centre brings together the expertise of various parties with the objective of realising the sustainable growth of the Nigerian dairy sector. In addition to knowledge exchange, FrieslandCampina also invests in a network of milk collection points. For example, in the last ten years about 10,000 farmers have been engaged, with 28 local milk collection points were constructed and investment  in water wells, improved breeds and in training livestock farmers. 

The Dairy4Growth Project, also known as the FDOV Project, was launched in 2016 under the umbrella of Dairy Development in a collaboration with Royal FrieslandCampina, FrieslandCampina WAMCO Nigeria PLC, Wageningen University & Research, International Fertilizer Development Center and Bles Dairies. The Project is funded by the Facility for Sustainable Entrepreneurship and Food Security (FDOV) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands.

At its core, the Project developed and implemented the concept of ‘Dairy Zones’ where smallholder dairy farmers cluster, share resources and collaborate. The Dairy Zones help in accelerating professionalisation of the local dairy sector, improve the position of farmers and increase production volumes of good-quality raw milk. Ultimately, the Dairy Development contributes to a sustainable increase in farm incomes from milk sales while securing local milk sourcing for FrieslandCampina WAMCO.

In addition to pursuing the development of settled smallholder dairy farming — considered as one of the most promising routes for dairy development in Nigeria — the FDOV Project also focused on encouraging pastoralists to pursue commercial dairy production, since building milk collection infrastructure in remote areas would create stable access to the formal milk market for these pastoralists communities.

The Dairy4Growth Project invested in three main pathways of change:

•Establishing commercial dairy farms with investments, training, extension services

•Stimulating a conducive environment for commercial dairy by supporting access to different service providers

•Supporting pastoralist communities in increasing their milk production for the market both by training and investing in milk collection facilities

Pathways of Change: Creating Entrepreneurship

Better milk, higher incomes

The Dairy Zones envisioned in the Dairy4Growth Project help increase access to concentrate feed, water, infrastructure and services for cattle farmers. Ultimately, the zones help farmers become more efficient in dairy farming and produce higher quality milk, thereby generating more income for themselves.

The idea is that settled smallholder dairy farmers congregate in a Dairy Zone to practice dairy farming activities, sharing resources and collaborating.

In each Dairy Zone, a model farm was established to help develop other surrounding dairy farms. The Project also provided capacity building training, infrastructure and access to finance, feed, as well as extension services, including enhancing access to public utility services, such as schools and hospitals, which is a persistent challenge for nomadic farmers.

Farmers at the helm

An impressive group of 20 small holder farmers took on the challenge of joining the Project to implement a settled farming system. The success of the Project is theirs.

These 20 farmers started out with locally sourced crossbred cows (mostly Zebus crossed with Holstein Friesians) , which were then inseminated by SMAP Farms, a local provider of crossbreed sourcing and artificial insemination services.

Four sophisticated barns were designed and built for these master farms to house these initial herds, including technical support for shed structure, roofing materials, etc. “Zero flies” nets were also installed to keep out tsetse flies and insect-borne diseases.

Nutrition being at the basis of livestock health and productivity, the FDOV Project trained the farmers on improved forage cultivation and conservation and support in dairy ration concentrate feeds. Critically important, all farms were ensured access to water via boreholes.

The greatest achievement of the Project by far was revolutionizing the farming practices of smallholder farmers through comprehensive trainings and practical demonstrations in all segments of good dairy farming practices (GDFP): from land preparation, to pasture cultivation, to preservation and conservation, led by the Project’s experts and other providers.

Adopting Good Dairy Farm Practices

Dairy farmers’ production systems worldwide need to be able to combine profitability with the responsibility of protecting human health, animal welfare and the environment. Therefore, the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) has developed references for Good Dairy Farming Practices, which gives individual dairy farmers proactive guidance on how these objectives can be achieved on their farm. When adopted, it will support the production and marketing of safe, quality-assured milk and dairy products. For more info check: Guide to good dairy farming practice (

Within the Dairy4Growth Project, Good Dairy Farming Practices were considered as an important building block to improve dairy farm management. Therefore, the Project invested in training, coaching and monitoring farmers on all aspects of Good Dairy Farming Practices:

• Animal health

• Milking hygiene

• Nutrition (feed, and water)

• Animal welfare

• Environment (barn design-waste management)

• Socio-economic management.

Training farmers

Professional dairy farming is a combination of passion, discipline (work methods) and ‘logical-thinking aspects’. Hence, the Dairy4Growth Project partners and their passionate dairy team trained and supported dairy farmers in line with these attributes.

Daily Good /dairy farm management relies on knowledge, skills and attitude. What you see is what you get! Using ‘animal signals’ (heat, birth, production, health etc.) an efficient and effective course of action can lead to a successful dairy business! Trainings were organized to increase knowledge and skills of farmers to improve their dairy farm management (including good dairy farming practices, cow fertility, recording crossbreeding, milk collection and hygiene, feeding and fodder crop production etc.).

The trainers and coaches were members of FrieslandCampina WAMCO, Animal Care, Bles-Dairies, Wageningen University & Research, International Fertilizer Development Centre (IFDC), Animal Care, Dizengoff-farm implements suppliers and Nigerian research institutions and Universities. The team of experts collaborated to make tangible and intangible resources available in terms of well-structured and practical demos and trainings. The theoretical trainings were held in dedicated rooms or even online following the Covid-19 restrictions. Presentation, pictures, movies were all used to create attractive and interactive sessions.

To enhance data collection and efficient farm record system, farmers were adequately trained on a specially designed app MyDairyFarmTool from Uniformagri, the Netherlands.

Laying the Foundations for Commercial Dairy

Starting up a new environment to enable Nigerian dairy farmers to transition to commercial farming — that was the initial vision of this pathway of change. Achieving it requires a multifaceted effort from training the farmers, to providing access to tools and related services, including feed and fodder providers, veterinarians, financial services, as well as a variety of farm inputs, such as pasture seeds, mineral licks, drugs, etc.

Main achievements

One major example of creating a local, sustainable commercial model in the Nigerian dairy sector concretely achieved by the Project was the establishment of a commercial fodder producer. Since fodder procurement is a major challenge in Nigerian dairy production, this bottleneck was recognised and resolved by the Project. One farm was selected and encouraged to commercially produce and sell fodder to various Dairy Zones. Project partners teamed up to provide training and state-of-the-art farm machinery, including tractors, ploughs, and other equipment, making pasture development a success.

Other agricultural service providers working with the farmers in different aspects of planting and cultivation of grass and fodder also received trainings and tools to establish a successful business.

Well equipped, knowledgeable and trained, these service providers eventually turned into the trusted advisors of the dairy farmers in the Project. This collaboration with dedicated, highly trained extension officers promises to be a key factor for long-term sustainable success. Private extension service providers and the FrieslandCampina WAMCO extension team also profited from the practical and theoretical training and coaching received from international dairy experts during the programme.

One fundamental element of success for the FDOV project was increasing access to finance for farmers. Officials from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) were brought on board to meet with the farmers in the Project and introduce to them special CBN intervention loans for agriculture, which eventually led to some of the farmers starting loan applications with the CBN.

In the area of inputs, an additional benefit to stimulating dairy business in the project area, farmers also had the opportunity of expanding their networks, as multiple international and local companies procured inputs under the Project, including fertilisers, safe herbicides, pesticides, industrialised boreholes, fencing, maize seeds, and silage production materials.

And in the area of animal health, a sponsored vaccination campaign saw that all cows in the farms under the Project were vaccinated against the most prevalent diseases in their areas, including foot and mouth disease (FMD), pasteurellosis, Lumpy Skin Disease (LSD) and contagious bovine pleuropneumonia disease (CBPP). Teaming up with Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Agriculture, the farms started under the FDOV project will be part of future governmental animal health campaigns.

Main challenges and lessons learned

  • Unexpected, significant problems can often be overcome when continuous mutual learning occurs. The Covid-19 pandemic, for example, suddenly hindered any possibility of international experts visiting the project, which forced all parties to immediately acquire the digital skills for attending virtual meetings and online support programmes.
  • Drastic climatic conditions affected yield and operations in pasture development. A prolonged dry season complicated regular animal feeding, pushing farmers to spend more for supplementary food for their cows.
  • A challenging environment for farmers to access loans. Now, thanks to the partnership started during theDairy4Growth Project, the Central Bank of Nigeria is preparing to make a tailored loan directed at dairy farming available. Farmers have been supported on how to draw up sound business plans for their farms to enable banks to provide loans at feasible interest rate.

Way forward

Continuous support is crucial for long-term progress. FrieslandCampina WAMCO extension officers, other field officers and partners in breeding, feeding and grassland management, will continue following up and coaching farmers to improve in every area of good dairy farming practices. They will continue to liaise with all relevant stakeholders and the dairy farmers to further provide every necessary support to advance smallholder dairy farming in Nigeria.

Adapted from Dairy4growthNigeria Project (Annual Report of FrieslandCampina)