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Hargeisa milk industry gets boost from EU grant
Friday, December 06, 2013

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Milk traders and local officials in Hargiesa have welcomed a grant worth 4 million euros ($5.4 million) from the European Union and partner agencies to improve food security and increase milk production in the Somaliland region.

The initial phase of the project is limited to Hargeisa, Somaliland Minister of Livestock and Development Abdi Aw Dahir Ali said at the project's opening event on November 25th, attended by representatives from the EU and implementing organisations.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) will provide an additional $400,000, and is implementing the project with Nairobi-based partner organisation International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE), he said.

"The project will have a secondary phase that will extend it to the other regions," Ali said. "It is a chain production of milk, animal healthcare, milking equipment, transportation, containers for marketing and cooling equipment."

To meet increasing demand, the Somaliland region currently imports the majority of its milk as powdered milk, according to the FAO Somalia. The project aims to increase local milk production from camels and cattle to produce 80% of consumption needs.

In the first phase of the three-year project, a milk production plant will be opened in Hargeisa that will provide markets with canned milk, said veterinary doctor Abdi Osman Haji Abdi, a consultant for the joint FAO and ICIPE project.

The project will provide direct small-scale funds to about 40 co-operatives and will facilitate the construction of a sales plant in Gobanimo market, which is one of the largest markets for milk, Abdi told Sabahi. The project will also help the government in the creation of the dairy milk law, which will be important in managing milk production, he said.

About 30,000 litres of milk is brought into Hargeisa each day, Abdi said, while 70% of the milk used in Somaliland is imported powdered milk.

"This project will support all the value chain actors in the milk sector and will provide a boost for employment creation in Somaliland," said EU Special Envoy to Somalia Michele Cervone d'Urso at the launch of the project. "We expect the initiative to increase the income of 1,000 pastoralists and agro-pastoralists communities. It will also allow more than 50,000 households to have access to hygienic milk."

Somaliland President Ahmed Mohamed Silanyo thanked the donors for their financial contribution and underscored the economic importance of continuing improvements in quality and production capability in this sector.

"It is a very valuable project and its development will be very beneficial for the public," he said at the project's opening ceremony. "We are all happy that we take a step forward every time, and it is one that benefits our people and their economic status."

Improving the region's economy

The project also aims to focus on capacity building for women milk vendors, and on reducing milk losses caused by poor handling along the value chain.

Women who sell milk in markets or transport it to the cities now operate on an individual basis, but the project will facilitate a co-operative system, provide milk coolers and quality control laboratories, and offer trainings for producers and sellers, said Director General of the Ministry of Livestock Mohamud Ahmed Agaweyne.

"[Milk] traders are mothers whose skills and businesses have to be supported since they depend on this for their livelihood," he told Sabahi.

Somaliland has more than 20 million livestock, which can free the region from depending on imported food if their production is developed, Agaweyne said.

"We welcome this project, which is the first of its kind to be implemented in the country and will improve the backbone of our economy and lives," he said.

Agaweyne said the project would increase milk production and lead to self-sufficiency in demand, thereby increasing stability and reducing poverty.

The plan includes efforts to establish veterinary clinics, grazing land and water sources for milk producers on the outskirts of Hargeisa, so they would be not compelled to move from one place to another, thus allowing for a more constant supply of milk to the city, according to Agaweyne.

Improved hygiene may increase consumption

Amina Yusuf, 64, a roadside milk seller at the Total intersection in Mohamud Haybe district in Hargeisa, welcomed the EU grant.

"I was happy when I heard about this aid money intended to develop milk production and sales," she told Sabahi. "Our first need is to find a solution for our product, which goes bad in a few hours ... the shelf life of milk is very limited and so the daily leftover must be thrown away since no one will buy it the next day. This is a loss to us."

Milk sellers endure a number of difficult work conditions, such as having no shade from the sun and no protection from blowing dust, Yusuf said.

Many customers are concerned about the health risks associated with the plastic containers currently used to distribute milk, and this is the reason they hesitate to buy it, even if they like drinking milk, said Saynab Hussein, a milk trader at Inji Market in Hargeisa.

"I believe that improving milk storage containers will increase the number of people who drink milk as the many people who refuse to drink it for hygienic reasons will be reassured," she told Sabahi. "And that is what will increase our business ... this aid money has given us a lot of hope and our request is that it is managed in a fair manner."


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