TANZANIA has for years been known for its endowment with a huge potential of livestock resources that can be utilised to transform livelihoods among farmers and other stakeholders in the value chain.
However, low productivity of indigenous cattle in terms of milk production due to low genetic potential of indigenous breeds among others, remains a challenge.
Launching East Africa Dairy Development Project (EADD) in Tanzania recently, Prime Minister, Mr Mizengo Pinda said that the country, among others, has 22.8 million head of cattle and of the total population, 97 per cent are indigenous cattle breeds mainly kept under traditional system and 3 per cent are improved dairy cattle breeds mainly kept by small farmers.
He added that currently the country is estimated to produce 1.92 billion litres of milk per annum, of which 70 per cent is from the traditional herd and 30 per cent from improved dairy cattle kept by smallholder farmers, 12 government organisations and 8 private farms.
Statistics have it also that milk processing capacity is estimated at 395,000 litres per day, but only 135,300 is processed daily (that is 34 per cent) due to milk collection difficulties.
"Regardless of small proportion of milk production, the potential for increasing production and productivity in the smallholder dairy cattle herd is high and therefore it is recommended for diary development in the country," said premier in a speech read on his behalf by the Deputy Minister for Livestock and Fisheries Development, Mr Kaika Saning'o Telele.
With regard to other existing potentials that favour dairy development, Mr Pinda said that the country has about 60 million hectares of range lands suitable for pasture and fodder production, diverse climatic conditions that support a wide range of dairy cattle breeds and a favourable policy environment.
The increasing growth in urbanisation and existing large human population (45 million) present a huge market potential for milk and dairy products.
However, the premier noted that the sector is facing various challenges including low volumes of milk that enter the market constituting 2 per cent that is processed and 8 per cent sold unprocessed through vendors.
He added that the country also faces the challenge of low milk collection and processing capacity due to underdeveloped infrastructure, high costs of utilities, transportation and equipment.
"Currently the installed milk processing capacity is estimated at 395,000 litres per day but only 135,000 are processed daily," he said.
Tanzania is also said to have low per capita milk consumption currently estimated at 45 litres, which is far below the 200 litres recommended by WHO.
However, the premier pointed out that various measures have been taken to address such challenges with efforts being directed towards development of the dairy industry through implementation of policies, strategies and programmes such as the National Livestock Policy of 2006, the National Strategy for Growth and Reduction of Poverty phase II of 2010, among others.
"The government of Tanzania has been inviting and embracing partnerships from private sector, national and international development partners... ," he said.
The Tanzania Development Vision 2025 states that "By year 2025, there should be a livestock sector, which to a large extent shall be commercially run, modern and sustainable, using improved income for the household and the nation while conserving the environment."
Mr Pinda believes that government efforts will meet the 2025's vision in the sector and help to attract investment in the diary industry and ultimately contribute towards modernisation of the sector and the diary industry in particular.
"Achievements recorded include increase in number of dairy cattle from 300,000 heads to 780,000 milk production from 1.4 million litres to 1.92 and per capita milk consumption from 39 litres to 45 recorded in the year 2008 and 2013 respectively," he said.
The achievements, though modest, are said to have contributed significantly in the improvement of incomes and nutritional status as well as creating employment opportunities to a significant proportion of livestock farming communities.
From such a background, the Premier was delighted to note that the EADD project whose phase One was implemented in Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda would now be implemented in Tanzania.
Heifer International Country Director, Mr Henry Njakoi whose organisation is coordinating the project implementation in Tanzania said that the project will be implemented in the Southern Highlands milk shed including Mbeya, Iringa and Njombe regions.
These regions have in the past benefited from other diary development programmes such as Small Holder Dairy Development Programme, which had given them dairying experience and readiness to participate in other dairying initiatives.
Mr Njakoi noted that the project will benefit 35,000 smallholder dairy farm families with 210,000 dependants and other 200,000 actors along the diary value chain hence uplifting their living standards and transforming the livelihoods of smallholder dairy farmers in the regions in question.
He said that the project worth 12.6 million US dollars was part of a larger grant of 25.5 million US dollars received by Heifer International from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to expand the EADD project and assist more than 136,000 farm families in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.
"Tanzania will receive 6 million US dollars from the Bill and Melinda Gates' grant, Heifer International in Tanzania will work with and invite new investors from public and private sectors to leverage and contribute the remaining 6.6 million US dollars over five years to fully fund the project in Tanzania," he said.
He said the project enables smallholder farmers to profitably participate in the growing dairy industry, improving nutrition and increasing farmer income and access to markets.
"In Tanzania, for example, Heifer and its partners will help establish new technologies such as breeding techniques, innovative approaches to fodder production and alternative energy sources," he said.
He added "Taking into account the high dairy production potential of the Southern Highlands milk shed and the proven hardworking farming households of Iringa, Mbeya and Njombe regions, we are confident that EADD will meaningfully increase smallholder household production, consumption and sale of milk in response to a booming dairy market."
The EADD in the country is expected to work with all actors recognising the critical role played by women and youth, put strategies in place targeting them to increase their participation in the dairy value chain.