“CDAIS has helped me understand better the challenges in the milk value chain, from farmer to final consumer.”
In November 2016, a CDAIS capacity needs assessment of a community milk processing centre started a process that has seen clear changes in less than a year. The Burera dairy was selected as one of the country’s ‘innovation niche partnerships’, and the assessment, workshop and associated training allowed participants to better understand the value chain, the issues, problems, and possible solutions. Now, Burera dairy is moving forward, and quickly…. But much of the thanks are due to CDAIS training at different levels, and the role played by the national innovation facilitators has played an important role.
“With CDAIS, I have learnt that for an improved and well-functioning milk value chain, we must build managerial ‘soft’ skills” said Jean de Dieu Nizeyimbabazi, district director of Agriculture and Natural Resources. “Before this project, whenever I saw a development partner I thought okay, he has brought machines or will help us build a milk factory. But during the capacity needs analysis, we came up with doable actions plans. And all credit to the training, as using the CDAIS action plan format, Burera came in amongst the best districts and qualified for extra funding, and qualified us to be a part of the Rwanda Diary Development Project (RDDP).”
“The CDAIS project has made me an innovative thinker.” Jean de Dieu Nizeyimbabazi, director of Agriculture and Natural Resources in Burera District.
“And the new approach is helping to strengthen partnerships in value chains”, Jean continues, “and getting people together has made my work a lot easier. Strengthening this partnership has added value to the value chain. The actors now understand the challenges, and the partnerships makes it easier for them to make improvements. This never happened before CDAIS.”
‘Innovation facilitators’ making the link
There is often a disconnect between what farmers want and what researchers tend to do. One aim of CDAIS is to break down such barriers and build bridges between such preciously disparate groups. Leon Niyibizi explains. “I am a lecturer at the college of Agriculture, Animal Sciences and Veterinary Medicine in Busogo, Northern Province of Rwanda. I understand the science, but CDAIS gives me opportunities to spend more time with farmers and understand their needs.”. Leon was selected and trained as one of a special team of ‘national innovation facilitators’. And he sees the value of this, immediately. “Handling and helping different people assess their capacity needs, we had to work in partnership with farmers, agronomists, researchers, factory owners…, and this meant listening to each and every one of them make sure we didn’t miss a point.”
“CDAIS training helped me learn how to work in a multi-disciplinary team, a serious skill I think I have developed. But how will I use such skill?” Leon reflects… “I have become more humble since I started working with the project. Before, I would analyze a problem at the surface, but with CDAIS, I now analyze problems more deeply. I have learnt a lot from taking part in these meetings and trainings, which is really incredible. We ‘innovation facilitators’ may all have the common denominator of ‘capacity development’, but are all from different backgrounds. A good example is the adult training, which is much better way to deliver such a training than get it from a colleague. It sinks deeper – trust me.” And in line with strengthening training and coaching skills, the team of national innovation facilitators had a further two-day session in August 2017 in Nyamata on adult learning methodology and coaching skills. The ultimate goal was to ensure that the forthcoming capacity development interventions will incorporate the most professional approaches.
Drilling down, applying skills
“With CDAIS, we learn not only how to identify the problems, in partnership, but also to prioritize them” say Leon Niyibizi. “Which are most pressing and have the biggest impact? Then we establish a sound action plan. In Burera, local milk collecting centers had closed due to heavy debts and poor management. The challenges stated at the outset were that farmers were not supplying milk, causing under performance. But some milk traders did not pay farmers for milk collected, reducing the commitment of farmers. There was also low milk production in some areas, with no pilot site from where farmers could be exposed to modern livestock farm management, and milk centres were not operating as hubs for providing farmer services.”
Major steps forward
During a visit to Burera in June 2017, many different actors came along, including government officials, private vets, milk sellers, the Rwanda Dairy Development Project, Burera farmer federations and cooperative members. Some said that before CDAIS gathered all these diverse actors together, there was little discussion. They realized the importance of selling milk cooperatively and established two new cooperatives immediately afterwards to overcome this problem. “The increase in demand for the centre’s milk also played a part, and getting the ‘RSB quality’ mark helped, leading to a diversifying of products and new markets. Now there is a need to increase capacity, and for new coolers and staff.”
“Before, the Burera milk processing centre was receiving only 600 litres per day, far below capacity. But after the meeting, farmers got themselves organized and quickly increased supply to 3500 litres every day.” Leon Niyibizi, national innovation facilitator
Collaborate, share and support
The Rwanda Dairy Development Project committed to support farmers to help them handle issues surrounding the new milk quality standards imposed by the plant to farmers, such as fat content, drugs, adulteration (added water) and detected diseases in supplied milk, and improving the focus on feed quality and fodder storage. This change is positively correlated to the visits CDAIS conducted in the framework of bringing together different stakeholders around a single table to discuss what the challenges are, agree the objectives, share a common vision, and commit to working together as a partnership. Pierre Celestine Mbonarura, president of the Ceptel milk collection center, added a further point. “CDAIS is helping to improve skills of veterinaries, teaching us how to approach markets and make our products more marketable, and training of staff in machine maintenance and operation. And thanks to this, I see our cooperative becoming more competitive and increasing production of higher quality milk in the years to come.”
Challenges to be overcome
“But there are many challenges” Emmanuel Mahuro of BDF remind us. “Burera is made up of 17 sectors in a mountainous area, and most members are smallholders with only a few cows each and their land used mostly for growing crops. For a stronger milk value chain, farmers need to change their mindset, and this won’t be easy. But I am excited to be on board, and I believe that the skills and partnerships you offer will make visible impacts.”
The Rwanda Business Development Fund (BDF Ltd) supports individual clients, start-ups, small and medium sized enterprises, associations, cooperatives, micro-finance institutions, with credit guarantees, credit lines, matching grants, quasi-equity and advisory services. Branch Manager Emmanuel Mahuro only became involved in September 2017, but as his views were clear. “First of all, the approach looks good, with local government in the driving seat. I think that CDAIS will come to solve so many outstanding issues. BDF offers grants to farmers with good projects, but even presenting a proposal is the hardest thing for so many. So, the project will help by training on a different ‘soft skills’.”
A positive vision
Based on the target vision, the Burera group realized that the only way to achieve it is to forget the past, forget what is dividing them and unite, collaborate, share and support each other, as the challenge of one can hinder the whole chain. They thanked CDAIS initiative and approach and they warmly welcome further cooperation and synergies to be created by the project in line with the Capacity Development sessions.
“Awareness of community needs and challenges are now shared through this social platform”, concludes Jean de Dieu Nizeyimbabazi, director of Agriculture and natural resources in the district. “Many problems are common to different groups, and ideas from different people and especially those in the market place help solve them. And we dream that the lessons from this partnership will help others.”