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Gates Foundation awards US$8 million grant to East Africa dairy project

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded Heifer International an US$8 million grant to support its East Africa Dairy Development (EADD) project

The EADD project is a regional industry development programme that aims to help 179,000 East African smallholder dairy farmers living on small 1-5 acre farms lift themselves out of poverty.

"The grant will support existing projects in Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda and explore possibilities for expansion in Ethiopia and Tanzania between July 1, 2012, and June 30, 2013," said Heifer International communications director Kelly MacNeil.

The EADD project began in 2008 with a $42.8 million grant from the Gates Foundation to help dairy farmer families in Africa increase their income through more profitable production and the marketing of milk and other related dairy products.

According to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, East African dairy farmers who wish tap into the growing demand for dairy products face several constraints. They do not have access to the latest agricultural methods and their cows do not generate the required amount of milk. To prevent their milk from spoiling, they must sell it within a few hours, and in a finite area, the Foundation revealed.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation highlighted that with better fodder and other interventions, local breeds could produce more than twice the average amount of milk, while crossbred cows could produce up to 17 times more milk.

If farmers have access to chilling plants, their milk could be preserved and they would be able to sell more of their product in the market, the foundation has argued. Chilling plants could also become hubs of business activity where farmers can get training and services for their cows, including artificial insemination and veterinary health care, the foundation pointed out.

The financial grant will aim to double the dairy incomes of East African smallholder dairy farmers within 10 years. The EADD project is currently in its final year of its pilot phase and, according to Heifer International, has earned farming families in the region more than $35 million.