Senior Business Writer
Nestle Zimbabwe says the company’s dairy development initiatives have resulted in an increase of milk intake by 259 percent in 2021 compared to 2020.
The company in 2011 launched the Nestlé Dairy Empowerment Scheme (NDES), at an initial cost of US$14 million to assist drive the resuscitation of the dairy value chain, targeting to import more than 4 000 heifers for small- and large-scale farmers.
Yamurai Zhou, the group’s corporate communication and public affairs officer, told Business Weekly, that since the launch of the programme 10 years ago, the company has made considerable investments in the NDES.
“Consequently, we’ve witnessed an encouraging year-on-year improvement in both the amount and quality of milk produced,” she said.
She added that Nestlé Zimbabwe has assisted its dairy farmers through driving the agripreneurship and sustainability strategy within NDES.
Such initiatives, according to Zhou include the establishment of milk collecting centres through the provision of cooling tanks and solar powered boreholes to address water challenges for irrigation.
“Others are pasture and silage support to reduce commercial feed requirements as feed accounts for over 65 percent of the production cost,” she said.
Zhou indicated that Nestle Zimbabwe has also installed solar powered cooling systems to reduce reliance on electricity and diesel for power generation as well as establishment of farming training programmes.
Recently, the Government challenged players in the dairy sector to complement its efforts to reduce feed stock costs which continuously impact viability as it accounts for over 65 percent of total milk production.
Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement Minister Dr Anxious Masuka, said the Government had robust plans for growing the dairy sector, anchored on lower production costs.
He said the Government plans to increase farmers’ business viability through increased own farm feed production and feed formulation and providing support for irrigation, mechanisation and pasture development.
According to Zhou, the company’s dedication to the expansion of the dairy industry in Zimbabwe is embodied in its dairy development initiative.
“NDES focuses on sustainable agriculture and training farmers to positively contribute to the economy while improving their quality of life.
“We train farmers on milk production, cow/heifer assistance, and how to create their own feeds through silage production and pastures as part of the NDES programme.
“New dairy producers are also encouraged to apply for grants to purchase critical production equipment,” she said.
She added that farmers get matching subsidies as part of co-operation between Nestlé Zimbabwe and We-Effect.
“The NDES programme has evolved over the years to focus on agripreneurship. We support our dairy farmers and farming partners to have the Agripreneurship mindset,” she
According to Zhou, agripreneurship aims at accelerating the development of capable and willing farmers to grow their farming skills, competences and business management thus driving sustainability and at a large scale creating economic opportunities and social impact in rural communities, which is part of the Nestlé vision and purpose.
Zhou said at the inception of the programme, small-scale farmers were not included, but later realised that the programme could play a role in improving the livelihoods of smallholder farmers in the country.
“We began to create stallholder farmer
hubs in 2015, with the opening of the Chitomborwizi Network in Murombedzi, Mashonaland West.
“We are pleased that as of today we now have three well established small-scale farmer hubs: Chitomborwizi in Mashonaland West, Watershed in Hwedza, and Agro Prosperity Trust in Marondera,” she said.
She noted that there are about 70 individual dairy producers in these organisations and for these farmers, the company has managed to install 6 solar powered boreholes, supported them with 76 in calf heifers and helped them with inputs to grow silage on 130ha.