Afghanistan: FAO-supported dairy union provides high quality milk products

By Homayon Khoram

20 October 2008 - Nearly 400 families in Kunduz province have established a dairy union that provides safe and hygienic dairy products

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) helped farmers establish the Kunduz dairy union. It's the fourth of its kind supported by FAO and provides products to city residents through ten retail outlets. Three other dairy unions operate in Kabul, Balkh and Herat provinces.

The dairy union has a milk processing unit capable of processing 2000 to 3000 litres of milk a day. The milk is collected by cooperatives established in the villages where farmers sell their milk and then transferred to the union in Kunduz city.

The union's modern milk processing machinery processes milk and produces dairy products including pasteurized milk, yoghurt, butter and other products.

80 per cent of the population in Afghanistan lives in rural areas and for most of them agriculture and animal husbandry is their only source of income.

"It's not been feasible for village farmers to sell their milk in the past as the money from milk sales didn't cover the cost of transportation," said Mohammad Roz Khan a farmer from the village of Shena Teepa. "Now farmers do not have to travel, instead they sell their milk in the village to the cooperative in which they are members."

The number of farmers wishing to join the cooperative is increasing. Three years ago the number of cooperative members was five to ten farmers, now the number has reached 80 according to Roz Khan.

"The goal of this dairy project is to improve food security and raise the productive capacity of the dairy sector," said Lutfullah Rlung, FAO's national field manager. "Dairy unions have proven very useful. An Afghan farmer's annual milk sale was US$ 58 in 2002 but it has increased to US$ 545 in 2007," added Mr. Rlung.

Painda Mohammad Keshtworz, the manager of the Kunduz dairy union, says the union's dairy products are of high quality and cheap: "A litre of our milk costs 16 Afghanis (32 cents) while imported milk is four times more expensive."

The dairy union has also empowered women. Milking livestock is usually a women's job in rural Afghanistan and the money from milk sales also goes to them.

"Many women now feel very confident as the dairy union is generating income for them," said Mr. Rlung.

Dairy unions provide employment and income generating opportunities at a grassroots level, safe and high quality dairy products to the consumers and contribute to national food security.