Co-creating a climate friendly and sustainable dairy sector in Tanzania

The dairy cattle sector in Tanzania contributes approximately 16% of national emissions, or 28.8 million tons Carbon dioxide emission. This is almost entirely resulting from enteric fermentation of cattle. The dairy sector also has to contribute to meeting emissions reductions goals, but it cannot come at the cost of production needs; solutions are therefore needed to increase productivity per cow. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations recommends optimizing animal nutrition as a way to curb emissions.

Farmers harvesting millet as part of an animal nutrition training to reduce emission

Stakeholders recognize that it is increasingly critical to find pathways to sustainably increase local dairy production in climate smart ways. The Government of Tanzania has committed to reduce Green House Gases (GHG) emissions by 10-20% by 2030 in its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

In supporting this agenda, the UN Food System Summit and COP26 have also put the spotlight on the role of dairy in sustainable food systems and climate change action. To this effect the Pathways to Dairy Net Zero Initiative was launched by the Global Dairy Platform (GDP) to “demonstrate the global dairy sector’s commitment to reducing GHG emissions while continuing to produce nutritious foods.” From this initiative, dairy farmers will be supported to enhance productivity.

Current state of affairs of the Tanzania dairy sector

Many rural communities across Tanzania rely on the dairy sector for their livelihoods and to meet nutritional needs. As the largest agricultural sub-sector in Tanzania, dairy contributes 30% of the agricultural sector’s GDP and is an essential part of the rural economy.

While Tanzania has the second largest cattle herd in East Africa, milk production is the least efficient – meaning more cows are required to produce the same amount of milk as compared to neighboring countries. Current production levels are not meeting domestic demand, and the Tanzania Livestock Master Plan aims to increase milk production and dairy’s contribution to GNP by >70% to meet growing demand.

Integral to dairy is a sustainable business model for scaling up fodder farms.

The Dairy Nourishes Africa Approach

The Dairy Nourishes Africa (DNA) initiative from a Global Dairy Platform operating in Tanzania and Kenya, is working across the full dairy value chain to transform the sector and support sustainable growth. In committing to the Pathways to Dairy Net Zero Initiative, DNA has identified priority areas and opportunities to improve productivity and reduce emissions with small-scale dairy producers and processors and is seeing early signs of impact.

DNA takes a different, holistic approach to dairy system transformation. DNA uses a market-led systems approach, shifting the locus of investment to farmer-allied enterprises that serve as anchors of inclusive market systems. A farmer-allied enterprise is an SME that aspires to achieve long-term growth by investing in the capacity of farmers in their supply chain to meet consumers’ needs. In practice, DNA has collaborated intensively with selected dairy processors, bolstering the services they provide to their farmer suppliers through a sustainable embedded extension model that facilitates training and access to inputs and services.

Dairy has potential to increase farmer production and productivity when Good Agronomical Practices (GAP) is observed

Emissions from dairy production are driven by on-farm emissions (91% of the sector’s emissions are at the producer-level). DNA is focused on reducing the intensity of these direct on-farm emissions through productivity improvements, introducing climate-smart agricultural practices, and improving animal nutrition.

Data collected 12 months into the pilot has shown DNA’s embedded extension services model improves productivity by an average of 57%, largely through optimizing animal nutrition. These productivity improvements have reduced emissions intensity by an estimated 33%, based on on-farm data and FAO databases.

The Potential of Full Dairy Sector Transformation

DNA is soon concluding a one-year pilot, with early results indicating great potential to contribute to national targets. Over the next five years, DNA aims to scale up and partner with an additional 15-20 farmer allied enterprises in Tanzania, supporting 20,000 farmers to enhance on-farm productivity. A realization of productivity targets among DNA participants would contribute approximately 6% of the national commitment of emissions reductions for the dairy sector.

These early successes can also be built upon with additional measures to mitigate emissions across the dairy value chain to amplify climate action. Future activities to optimize processing operations, introduce more efficient cold chain infrastructure, reduce waste and loss of dairy products, and growing local markets to reduce transportation requirements all contribute to reducing emissions from the dairy sector and support thriving rural communities.

For more information on DNA please contact directly Mr. Todd Kirkbride via  

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