5 ways dairy is key to sustainable development 


Commemorating World Milk Day by focusing on sustainability in the dairy sector, as well as environmental, nutritional, and socioeconomic empowerment 

NAIROBI, Kenya, 1st June 2022 -/African Media Agency (AMA)/- June 1st is World Milk Day, a day set aside by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation where we put the spotlight on the dairy industry. It’s impossible to imagine our lives without milk and all its various products, yet beyond the food itself, the dairy industry remains pivotal in our livelihoods, communities, and economies. This year’s theme draws attention to sustainability in the sector, as well as environmental, nutritional, and socioeconomic empowerment. This focus is poignant given the urgent need to accelerate climate action – a call on us all to rethink, reduce and repurpose in our journey towards a sustainable future. In east and southern Africa region (ESAR), this theme touches on a broad set of considerations that are connected to sustainable development goals: 

1. Over 75% of humans on earth consume milk and milk products 

More than 6 billion people worldwide are estimated to consume dairy products, that’s just over 75% of the global population. Many of these consumers are in developing economies, and for them, milk is a source of much-needed nutrition, and it is also crucial as a vehicle for delivering micronutrients. Dairy products are versatile enough to be fortified with essential micronutrients such as Zinc, a range of Vitamins and Calcium, to help boost the whole family’s immunity.  

2. Dairy sector is significant in growing national herds  

Agriculture contributes nearly a quarter of sub-Saharan Africa’s GDP, with a recorded 13.4 million dairy farms on the continent. A country’s national herd has direct correlation with its milk production; therefore, its growth has significant impact on the economy. Zimbabwe’s dairy herd that peaked at 123,000 cows in 1990, producing 260 million litres of milk annually, has shrunk to an estimated 39,000 dairy cows, producing at a deficit of 48% of national demand. Interventions are underway to boost the herd to 60,000 by 2027. One such initiative with an objective to help grow the national herd is the Nestlé Dairy Empowerment Scheme launched in 2011 to support agripreneurship in Zimbabwe. The scheme’s activities have been underpinned by strong sustainability credentials, including provision of solar-powered boreholes and cooling systems to reduce energy use, pasture and silage support to reduce commercial feed requirements, and knowledge transfer in labour practices and animal welfare. 

3. Accelerating interventions for more sustainable dairy practises 

The theme for 2022’s focus on sustainability is one that has been consistent with the founding of World Milk Day. On an outcome basis, the carbon footprint of a glass of milk today is notably lower than it was 70 years ago, but emissions from the sector increased by 18% between 2005 to 2015 to meet the increased demand for milk. There is much that can be done to further reduce the environmental footprint of dairy farming. Nestlé ESAR is piloting Africa’s first net zero dairy farm at Skimmelkrans Boerdery, in George, South Africa, with a projection to reach net zero in 2023. The project uses regenerative agriculture methods such as soil work, water conservation, feed management and manure processing, where some of the biggest reductions of greenhouse gases occur. 

4. Rethinking dairy feeds to reduce emissions while controlling invasive species  

Water stewardship in dairy farming is a key touchpoint in evolving operations and making them more sustainable. In South Africa’s KwaZulu Natal region, controlling an invasive species, black wattle, coincided with Nestlé’s largest Black-owned dairy supplier, Springfontein Dairy Farm’s appetite to explore non-commercial dairy feeds that boost milk production. The farm is part of Makhoba Farms, a community-owned enterprise, that, together with Nestlé, partnered with the University of KwaZulu Natal to pilot the use of black wattle in cow feed. Black wattle has proven to be high-value animal roughage with multiple benefits to ruminants that result in a remarked increased in milk quality. The intervention has reduced the farm’s dependency on bought feed, in turn reducing its emissions. 

5. The dairy sector creates employment and amplifies agripreneurship 

Unlike seasonal subsectors of agriculture, dairy is active throughout the year and by its very nature, supports local economies. Its broad value chain enables employment beyond the farm, and for emerging African economies that are growing their manufacturing capabilities, this is crucial in socio-economic development. According to the World Bank, every 100 litres of milk results in between 1.2 and 5.7 full time jobs in Kenya and Ghana. In South Africa, about 1,200 dairy farms with a herd of about 1.2 million dairy cows produce around 26,000 jobs. In 2022, Nestlé and Makhoba Farms reported on the creation and filling of 34 jobs within three years, targeting young people from the Makhoba community as part of the Youth Employment Service programme. These numbers from part of a global estimate of more than one billion livelihoods supported by the dairy sector. 

The role of milk and dairy products in the provision of nutrition and sustainable livelihoods cannot be overemphasised. Being nutrient-dense, these products supply essential proteins and micronutrients key in cognitive development and the reduction of hunger and malnutrition especially in vulnerable population groups. The sector plays a role in socio-economic development, supporting livelihoods and communities while driving economic growth. These considerations, today, must be seen through a sustainable lens, to ensure that as we grow dairy, we simultaneously drive innovation to reduce the sector’s climate impact. 

Distributed by African Media Agency on behalf of Nestle.

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Issued by Weber Shandwick on behalf of Nestlé East and Southern Africa Region 

Name Tankiso Motsoeneng 

Tel: +27 61 374 7539 

Email: [email protected]  

About Nestlé  

Nestlé is the world’s largest food and beverage company. It is present in 187 countries around the world, and its 291,000 employees are committed to Nestlé’s purpose of unlocking the power of food to enhance quality for everyone, today and for generations to come. Nestlé offers a wide portfolio of products and services for people and their pets throughout their lives. Its more than 2,000 brands range from global icons like Nescafé or Nespresso to local favourites like Ricoffy. Company performance is driven by its Nutrition, Health, and Wellness strategy. Nestlé is based in the Swiss town of Vevey where it was founded more than 150 years ago. 

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Source : African Media Agency (AMA)