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Options and challenges for organic milk production in East African smallholder farms under certified organic crop production

Vaarst, Mette; Smolders, Gidi; Wahome, Raphael Githaiga; Odhong, Charles; Kiggundu, Muhammad; Kabi, Fred; Nalubwama, Sylvia and Halberg, Niels (2019) Options and challenges for organic milk production in East African smallholder farms under certified organic crop production. Livestock Science, 220, pp. 230-240.

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Document available online at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1871141319300186


Many East African smallholder farms with certified organic crop production, also rear animals. Although farming systems are mixed, there is often very little integration and synergy between the different enterprises. The aim of this article is to suggest and discuss different development scenarios for organic dairy production, based on data from three East African studies of dairy production at certified organic cash crop farms. The following questions are explored for two categories of ‘model farms’ in Kenya and Uganda, respectively: 1) Can smallholder farmers benefit from keeping organic dairy cattle, and under which conditions can it be viable, given the current challenges? 2) How can the dairy production be integrated into the farm and create synergy with the different farm elements? 3) What would need to change if their milk was to become certified organic and farmers had to comply with organic principles and standards for dairy farming? Based on data and estimates from on-farm case studies at Kenyan and Ugandan smallholder dairy farms, in combination with literature, potential development scenarios are outlined. The study concludes that there are good possibilities for more local recirculation of feed and manure, although with limited benefits when there are only few animals with short lactations on the farm. Involvement of local communities in feed production and use of grazing areas seems to be a good option to the mutual benefit of both. If certified organic smallholder farms should diversify their income through sale of organic milk, they would need a secure market. Depending on the cost of certification, these farms will only benefit from sale of organic milk if they can produce milk year round at a scale, which allow them to benefit from the effort to give animals organic feed, an effort including establishment of grazing and local feed production that comply with organic standards. Outdoor stay and grazing continue to challenge many smallholder milk producers especially with Holstein Friesian types of cows, and more robust breeds are needed. In addition, many smallholders do not have sufficient land to permit grazing around their homesteads, where the animals live.
Organic standards regarding animals need improvement and precision, especially requirements for grazing areas and feed. Certification comprising whole farms including the animals, and not only crops for export, will enhance crop-animal integration.

EPrint Type:Journal paper
Keywords:dairy farming, crop-animal integration, smallholder, East Africa
Agrovoc keywords:
Subjects: Animal husbandry > Production systems > Dairy cattle
Animal husbandry > Feeding and growth
Farming Systems > Social aspects
Values, standards and certification
Animal husbandry > Health and welfare
"Organics" in general > Countries and regions > Africa
Farming Systems > Farm nutrient management
Knowledge management
Research affiliation: Denmark > AU - Aarhus University
Denmark > ICROFS - International Centre for Research in Organic Food Systems
International Projects > Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark - DANIDA > Productivity and Growth in Organic Value-chains (ProGrOV)
Deposited By: Vaarst, Dr. Mette
ID Code:34454
Deposited On:31 Mar 2019 14:09
Last Modified:31 Mar 2019 14:09
Document Language:English
Refereed:Peer-reviewed and accepted

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