3 Reasons Why Dairy Farming is Empowering

Smallholder dairy farmers face big challenges and opportunities when it comes to selling fresh milk. USADF is making small but vital investments in the dairy value chain to boost incomes and nutrition in underserved communities in Africa. Photo Credit: Jen Katchmark

Smallholder dairy farmers face big challenges and opportunities when it comes to selling fresh milk. USADF is making small but vital investments in the dairy value chain to boost incomes and nutrition in underserved communities in Africa. Photo Credit: Jen Katchmark

Kim Ward, Managing Director of Programs, U.S. African Development Foundation


Fresh milk is not only a good source of potassium and calcium for growing children, it is also an important source of income for farmers in rural African communities. Over 750 million people around the world are engaged in milk production, from tending goats to making cheese. 

But for many subsistence smallholder farmers, who only have the resources to grow enough to feed themselves, dairy farming can yield low results and be difficult to turn into an economical business. Dairy processing, such as milk pasteurization for long-life milk, requires large quantities of equipment, capital and high volumes of milk production. That’s where organizations like the U.S. African Development Foundation (USADF) can make small but vital investments to transform individual dairy producers into a booming collective industry, all while boosting food security.


1.     Milk Increases Food Security, Nutrition and Incomes

Dairy farming is an important way for farmers to increase their earnings and access to more nutritious food for their families. While subsistence dairy farming provides not only fresh milk and a source of basic income, value-added products, such as yogurt and cheese, provide a higher source of revenue. Through local technical support, USADF works with producer groups to find ways to add value to products so farmers can earn a living wage.

USADF dairy sector projects include training local farmers to expand quality animal feed and milk bulking stations so farmers can travel shorter distances to have their milk tested and processed. USADF is teaming up with the Government of Malawi to work with cooperatives like Chitsanzo Dairy Cooperative to improve its financial and business management systems to further increase profits. Since 2013, with the support of a USADF enterprise expansion grant, Chitsanzo Dairy Cooperative members saw a 25% increase in sales revenue. USADF, through initiatives like Feed the Future, has invested over $1.3 million since 2009 in Malawi’s dairy sector to increase production, develop local and export markets, and help farmers earn more income by enhancing milking techniques.


2.     Dairy Farming Empowers Women

In Africa, dairy farming is a major source of income for women. Tending cows allows women to stay close to the household and local village while maintaining their status as income-earners for their families. In Uganda, USADF is investing in dairy enterprises as a transformational value chain to eliminate hunger and diversify the diets of women and children. Initially launched as a small women’s co-op, Gulu Women’s Dairy Cooperative has grown into a major women-owned and operated commercial enterprise. With support from a USADF enterprise expansion grant, Gulu Women’s Dairy tripled its membership and constructed northern Uganda’s first pasteurization plant for value-added dairy products, such as yogurt and long-life milk.

As the town of Gulu, once the epicenter of a major insurgency continues to stabilize, members of Gulu Women’s Dairy Cooperative are not only the breadwinners for their families but also key decision-makers in their community, ensuring no one goes hungry and contributing to local economic activity.


3.     High Demand for Locally Produced Milk

In many African communities, there is a strong demand for milk that is produced locally. In countries like Zimbabwe, which imports over half its milk each year, demand for fresh dairy products significantly outstrips domestic production and supply. USADF has made substantial investments in Zimbabwe’s growing dairy sector by increasing domestic production and helping to reduce the import of foreign products. Since 2012, USADF has invested $7 million in Zimbabwean cooperatives like Tsonzo Dairy Association to increase food security and support more than 18,800 farmers in Zimbabwe. Farmers like Philemon Nyatsana, a young smallholder dairy farmer with Tsonzo Dairy Association based in eastern Zimbabwe, who was able to triple his herd of cows and support his family by selling over 60 liters of milk a day to his community.

Members of Gulu Women’s Dairy cooperative are not only breadwinners for their families but also key decision-makers in their community, ensuring no one goes hungry and contributing to local economic development.

What’s more, availability of fresh milk from the village is often more affordable for rural families. But smallholder dairy farmers face a challenge: they often have low, uneconomical milk yields, averaging 3 to 5 liters per cow a day. With USADF investments and the introduction of animal health training, improved dairy breeds, better quality feed— all of which contribute to healthier cows— farmers can improve their yields upwards to 15 or more liters per cow a day.

In Zambia, Mungaila Dairy Cooperative members had to walk up to 15 miles a day by foot to sell their milk. With the region’s frequent droughts, farmers grew poor-quality animal feed, resulting in indigenous cows producing low yields of milk. With a USADF grant, Mungaila Dairy improved its financial management, built a milk storage tank, and members received access to new breeds with the potential to expand their milk yields as much as tenfold. By the end of the grant’s first year, farmers reported increases in sales as high as 30 percent. With farming families on a pathway to prosperity, an entire community benefits from an increase in dairy farmer revenue and boosted nutrition.

When we invest in smallholder dairy farmers and equip them with the tools to become successful, we are investing in entire communities and building lasting stability and prosperity.



Mr. Kim Ward is the Managing Director of Programs at the U.S. African Development Foundation, and has over 30 years of experience working in international development.

Celebrating Africa Today, Harnessing and Investing in Africa’s Greatest Asset for the Future

C.D. Glin, President/CEO

As we celebrate Africa Day, May 25, 2017, it is also important to reflect on the state of the African continent today and more importantly to envision, 10 or 20 years from now, future Africa Days. Africa is the world’s youngest continent, with approximately 70% of the population below the age of 30.  This “youth bulge” can be viewed as a liability, or as a demographic dividend to leverage as one of the greatest economic assets the continent has to offer. With the entrepreneurial spirit of today’s youth in confronting some of Africa’s unique challenges, it would be injudicious not to leverage the ingenuity of Africa’s future contributors and leaders and, what’s more, egregious not to harness and invest in them.  

As President of the U.S. African Development Foundation (USADF), an independent U.S. Government agency established by Congress to support African-led development in poor and vulnerable communities, I encounter innovative and entrepreneurial young Africans in the U.S. and throughout the continent.  More importantly, I have the privilege of investing in them and their market-based solutions, like Kenyan entrepreneur Eric Muthomi, founder of Stawi Foods and Fruits Limited in Nairobi.  USADF, which invests directly in early-stage African enterprises with seed capital and local technical assistance, awarded Eric a grant of $25,000 to jumpstart his agribusiness, which links small banana farmers in Kenya with direct market access, and create banana products such as chips and flour. USADF’s catalytic capital investment in Eric enabled him to receive $200,000 total in follow-on financing, and to scale his enterprise to reach over 400 farmers.

For an example of investing in youth at scale, let’s look at USADF’s work in Somalia.  With over 70 percent of Somali youth unemployed and the presence of terrorist groups like al-Shabab that are actively recruiting young people, USADF’s investments in local lives and local enterprises are vital, a clear model of efficient and results-driven local economic development. We invest in fragile states to grow and expand emerging markets. Since 2011, USADF has worked with a network of Somali NGOs providing job-training skills, access to capital and entrepreneurial development skills for young men and women. Today, as a result, over 5,500 young Somalis have been trained, placed in jobs or established enterprises, providing a lifeline to a stable, more prosperous future in their country.

USADF invests in youth initiatives because we know that strategic and catalytic investments made today in African youth will reap scalable benefits for years to come.

Over 70% of youth in Somalia are unemployed. Providing young people with job skills and access to capital are key. 

Over 70% of youth in Somalia are unemployed. Providing young people with job skills and access to capital are key. 

Through collaboration with initiatives such as the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) and U.S. corporations such as the Citi Foundation, USADF has demonstrated a commitment to youth investment by providing capital to over 150 entrepreneurs in over 30 countries. Over 68% of entrepreneurs in 2014 funded by USADF has attracted follow-on financing for their ventures, putting them on a pathway to prosperity and sustained economic growth.

While celebrating Africa Day today, we must continue to seek opportunities to harness and invest in Africa’s greatest asset for a peaceful and prosperous tomorrow-- the youth of Africa. 


A Women’s Cooperative Finds Success and Strength in Numbers

The women of Kamushoko Cooperative in Uganda are banding together to turn their millet cooperative into a profit-making agribusiness. Photo Credit: Julia Tanton

The women of Kamushoko Cooperative in Uganda are banding together to turn their millet cooperative into a profit-making agribusiness. Photo Credit: Julia Tanton

The women of Kamushoko Cooperative in Uganda know that self-reliance isn’t always a matter of going it alone. They attribute their recent economic and production successes to their strength in numbers.


At one time—before they were members of the Kamushoko Cooperative—the women farmed, harvested and sold their produce, such as millet and plantains, individually. On their own, they lacked bargaining power and faced limited marketing outlets.  They also had inadequate storage facilities for their crops, and that meant they had to sell their harvested produce immediately—at peak season, when prices were low and profits were meager.


Thanks to a grant from the U.S. African Development Foundation (USADF), these women are now banding together, bargaining collectively and turning their produce cooperative into a profit-making agribusiness that is boosting sales, family income and food security in their community.


Joan Mukongo has led the cooperative since 2013, when it was first funded with a $88,500 operational assistance grant to improve management and financial systems. Joan convinced women farmers to store their crops, sell in bulk at low season and shop around for buyers. This paid off: the farmers began to speak with one voice and to sell their products together, increasing their sales revenue by over 60 percent in the very first year. By 2015, when the first grant ended, Kamushoko Cooperative had doubled its sales revenue from millet and plantains and increased its membership, from 67 to nearly 100 members, almost all of which are women.


USADF has helped our cooperative to grow. We now know how to use a bank account, sign checks and pay our farmers. We have even gone on the radio. We talk and the whole country listens to the village women of Kamushoko. Can you imagine?

By working and bargaining together, members of the cooperative are achieving successes that would have been hard, if not impossible, to achieve on their own. They are expanding their market beyond the regular vendor in town. They are now able to invest their profits in a facility to store their grain, which allows them to sell at a time of optimal profitability. By reinvesting the profits back into the cooperative, the women are setting good examples, and becoming community leaders and powerful agents for change.


By collaborating with a local USADF partner to improve their agricultural techniques and the Kamushoko Cooperative’s organizational capacity, the members have pushed themselves to dream big. Today, the cooperative’s members are financially independent―they are earning regular salaries, opening their first bank accounts and sending their children to school. “We are an example in the community that agriculture can be a business,” said Mukongo.


But their big dreams do not stop there. Kamushoko Cooperative was recently awarded a $169,000 USADF enterprise expansion grant to continue to grow their business, purchase processing equipment and build a commercial trading center. The ladies of Kamushoko want to spread their message that farming can mean big business. They are encouraging others to see agriculture as a profitable livelihood by going on the radio in Uganda to share their story and organizing tours of their farm. One of the members, Rosette Kamushaka, says “USADF has helped our cooperative to grow. We now know how to use a bank account, sign checks and pay our farmers. We have even gone on the radio. We talk and the whole country listens to the village women of Kamushoko. Can you imagine?"



A previous version of this story first appeared in the Feed the Future newsletter.

“Now, He Calls Me Madam” - An International Women’s Day Post

Christine S. Fowles
Managing Director of Programs, U.S. African Development Foundation

I’ve seen firsthand that African women are the pillars of their communities and powerful agents of change. When we invest in women, we are investing in entire communities, empowering mothers to send their children to school, girls to access health services, and women to become active participants in their country’s development. Now, more than ever, women entrepreneurs can lead the way out of poverty for themselves, their children and their communities.


And in many of these places in which my organization, the U.S. African Development Foundation (USADF) works, women are rising to the top as leaders to affect change.


Take Annie Kruah, a leader in her community in the village of Karnplay in Nimba county, Liberia. Annie is a visionary with perseverance and grit, and is helping to spur economic growth in her community through the Gbehlay-geh Cooperative Society. Through Annie’s leadership, Gbehlay-geh Society grew from a small rice cooperative to an organization that has rice, palm oil, and cassava products, beekeeping, and livestock. When her community lacked access to any financial services or banking institutions, Annie successfully lobbied for the establishment of the Gbehlay-geh Financial Institute backed by Afriland Bank. She encouraged her fellow members in civic engagement and to participate in Liberia’s development. Now, 95% of Gbehlay-geh’s women members are registered to vote, and almost all voted in the last presidential election.  When the Ebola crisis hit Liberia in 2014, Gbehlay-geh Cooperative became a stable force for the community, and continued to offer financial services and grow food during the health crisis.


I’m happy to be working with organizations like Hope Development Initiative (HDI) in northern Uganda, which is empowering women one acre at a time. With a grant from USADF, Founder Agnes Atim Apea organized rice farmers in Amolatar district to grow and collectively sell rice. She had a vision to empower women by using agribusiness to unlock their sense of leadership, citizenship, and entrepreneurial spirit. Through their strength in numbers, the women of HDI cooperative were able to grow their organization, and invite other women from neighboring districts to join too. Now the cooperative is over 8,000 members strong and is entirely women. Among other things, farmers receive training on how to increase their yields, receive tutorials for how to open a bank account and save money, and are able to send their children to school.


Now, more than ever, it’s important to invest in change-makers like Annie and Agnes, each in their own ways breaking down legal, social and economic barriers to help women prosper and help their communities thrive. These leaders are central to the development and stability of a village.


One of the most inspiring women’s groups I’ve worked with is in Rwanda. A decade ago, two women who were suffering from HIV/AIDS decided to act and self-organize. Fifteen women joined the initiative, and formed Dufashabacu, which means “helping our people” in their local language, and is now more than 85 members strong. The women started in a non-traditional and labor-intensive business: brick-making. With a grant from USADF, Dufashabacu began its operations in making cement brick blocks, mainly used for local construction, and opened a savings and credit fund for its members to start other businesses. The grant also provided for critical training in areas such as leadership, business skills, gender-based violence, and public speaking. With their incomes from the brick-making, Dufashabacu members are able to feed their families, build permanent houses and access electricity and clean water. Most of the women now have individual bank accounts and participate in making decisions on how household incomes are used.


In addition, several are serving as representatives on the village and sub-district level. These women who were once shunned in the community for their HIV positive statuses are now community leaders and model citizens.


Last year, I met with one of the members of Dufashabacu. Rebecca had participated in USADF-funded workshops such as leadership, entrepreneurship and money management training. When I asked her about the result from her training, if she saw a difference in her own personal life, she replied, “Before I joined this group and earned an income to support my family, my husband used to not respect me, he would call me ‘Hey you’. And now, he calls me Madam.”


Stories like Rebecca’s remind me of the importance of helping women gain access to resources, and the power to control those resources. USADF invests not only in local enterprise development, but also in local lives.  Our grants increase women’s choices and transform their power relationships, enabling women to change their lives in ways that benefit them and their communities. 


Today on International Women’s Day, the U.S. African Development Foundation (USADF) is proud to announce the launching of a policy that recognizes the need to empower women to participate in the development of their countries, named the Willie Grace Campbell (WGC) Initiative.  The late Willie Grace Campbell is the former Vice Chair of the USADF Board of Directors, and was a tireless advocate for women’s rights at home and abroad. The WGC Initiative to will continue to invest in the lives of women throughout the continent and continue Ms. Campbell’s enduring legacy of fostering women’s leadership as an empowerment strategy, especially at the community level.

Christine S. Fowles is the Managing Director of Programs with over 40 years of experience in international development.

Editor's Note:  Christine Fowles recently retired from USADF after 30 years of service.

Solar Energy Lights Up Zambia

Photo by Rachel Couch for Power Africa

Photo by Rachel Couch for Power Africa

In Zambia, solar energy opens new possibilities for off-grid communities

After a World Bank power auction made Zambia the home of the most affordable grid-scale solar power in Africa, financiers are moving in to invest in the next hot spot of solar energy.

Zambia is attracting large-scale investment and financing, such as solar farms and solar-powered distribution plants. And thanks to a Power Africa partnership that leverages public resources and private capital, the Zambian Government is attracting solar power developers through low tariffs, an enabling regulatory framework, and flexible payment models.

But one of the biggest transformations in solar power is happening at the grassroots level. In Zambia, just 3 percent of the population in rural areas has access to energy. To reach these communities that are far from the national grid, local enterprises in the country are selling off-grid renewable energy technology to rural households, which is spurring economic growth.

The U.S. African Development Foundation (USADF), a Power Africa partner, funds African-owned enterprises, cooperatives and community-based organizations to build capacity and expand economic opportunities. In 2015, USADF expanded the Off-Grid Energy Challenge, a Power Africa Beyond the Grid partnership, to Zambia to invest in innovative energy enterprises working to provide energy access in rural communities.

Buntungwa Ventures Limited, a small solar enterprise in Luapula Province in northern Zambia, is one of those Challenge winners. Zambian-owned Buntunga Ventures is selling solar home systems to more than 400 households. Each system has a 15-50 watt capacity, enough for households to charge a cell phone, power a fan and turn on a lightbulb. After charging a low upfront cost, the company uses a pay-as-you-go model, allowing customers to gradually pay for their system over a period of time with mobile payments.

Many of the surrounding communities in Mansa district of northern Zambia live far from the national grid with few options for lighting their homes with national power. With a $100,000 grant, Buntungwa Ventures is leveraging its seed capital to boost operations, train female entrepreneurs, and sign agreements with mobile network operators to allow for the flexible pay-as-you-go model.

As solar energy becomes more affordable, more opportunities are arising to connect underserved communities to micro-grids.

Muhanya Solar Limited, another Off-Grid Energy Challenge winner, was awarded a $100,000 grant to build a solar-powered micro-grid to connect 60 families, many for the first time, to a consistent, renewable energy source powered by the sun. The 20 kW solar micro-grid in Sinda village in eastern Zambia will also power a school and local businesses, providing an economic spark for the rural community and proving a model for replication in other regions.

But perhaps most important are the ways in which entrepreneurs are using environmentally friendly innovations to power off-grid communities. SuperRich Energies Limited in southern Zambia is harnessing the power of both the Zambezi River and the sun. With its $100,000 Power Africa grant, SuperRich Energies, a Zambian-owned enterprise, is installing three innovative hybrid hydro-solar systems on the Zambezi, the first of twelve units that will ultimately generate up to 60 kilowatts of electricity for the surrounding villages. The systems utilize a unique floating turbine technology which floats on the surface of the river, minimizing both cost and environmental impact. With a solar-powered back-up system, this hybrid hydro-solar project demonstrates that there is a combination of ways that businesses like SuperRich Energies can turn on the lights for grassroots communities.

Energy access builds economic growth and activity, and these entrepreneurs are demonstrating that with affordable solar energy, local enterprises can run a business selling energy to low-income, rural households in Zambia. With solar innovations across the country, USADF is supporting Zambian enterprises both big and small to expand the solar market to communities living beyond the grid.