Milk for Energy, Energy for Milk

I grew up in Rwanda, a country where cow breeding is not only one of the major activities in the country’s socioeconomic life, but also a cultural symbol of wealth and a sign of well-being of a family. And it is obvious, since the country’s weather favours growing cattle’s food across the year.

When I got to Senegal, especially in the countryside, where land is really dry, and the rainy season is just 3 months a year, my first question was how people could keep cattle and have food for themselves. Farming in such parts of the country seems pretty hard.

Farming is still one of the major routine activities in Senegal, despite the long dry seasonLast week I had a chance to visit two sites of a project, Progrès Lait, a project that helps farmers to maximise the income they get from their milk production. The project puts in place milk collection centres in different regions, helping farmers to have a place, close to them, where they can get their milk conserved for a good time, and sold to processing firms in a fast, easy and effective way.

A collection centre in Ferlo region (North of Senegal)At each centre, I was warmly welcomed by the centre’s technicians. They explained to me that not only that the centre has milk conservation machinery, but also helps farmers in many other different ways. When farmers bring milk to the centre, the quantity is recorded. The centre pays them only one part of the money (money they can use to solve their family’s issues) and the rest is kept and can be withdrawn at the end of the month, a way of saving for them. The milk is then collected by the centre, and every 4-6 days, the centres deliver it to processing firms in the cities.

Here is how it works:

Such motorbikes are used for collecting milk
A farmer, after bringing his milk at the centre

The milk is tested for quality assurance

Milk is then kept in these refrigerators which keep it at constant 4 degree celsius till it is shipped to processing firms
The farmer gets his milk quantity recorded

Apart from selling milk on their behalf, the centres help farmers by providing them with animal food, which can be exchanged for a part of the quantity of milk they bring at the centre. That way, in case of emergency, farmers are able to get what they need to feed their cattle.

After the technician explained to me how the centres operate, I was impressed by how it eases life for farmers. But at that time, I hadn’t discovered the whole story. The centres are powered by solar energy. And the coolest thing is that they share that power with the rest of the neighbouring community. Yes, the solar power installation at the centres is also distributed around the villages they are in.

Solar power panels that power both the centre and the village

For example, in the region of Kolda (South), the power from the centre is also used for street lighting, lighting two neighbouring schools, and health centre and very soon villagers will also be having electricity in their homes, electricity that comes from the centre.

Apart from street lighting and public places, the electricity is soon going to be distributed in the homes of villagers

The project, being divided in two major zones (the Ferlo region and Kolda region), the Kolda region is the one that has so far been in place for a longer time and has shown already good results. So far, between January and November 2017, about 148,726 litres of milk have been collected and sold and the centre counts about 123 permanent farmers on average (a number that slightly changes due to seasons).

Women who are employed at a centre sharing a smile

A farmer after depositing his quantity

Senegal has been a good place for me to hear stories of lives getting changed and improved. Now I am even more excited to discover stories in Guinea Bissau, my next country, where I will be from the beginning of this week. Feel free to let me know if you have any recommendations about things to discover in Guinea Bissau.







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