Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter
Mrs Prayer Mhlophe is not for the bustling life of the city because as a dairy farmer in Matabeleland South countryside, her quality of life is so much better here.
Mrs Mhlophe of Irisvale in Umzingwane District earns up to US$600 a month through selling milk.
She is in the process of building a new homestead and has already constructed two structures at her new home and is confident that the main house will be completed soon.
Mrs Mhlophe, who started dairy farming in 2019, is also a community dairy aggregator, meaning she buys milk from other villagers before selling to bigger companies.
Her home is powered by solar and after milking their cows, community members bring the milk to her home for storage before selling.
She has managed to drill a borehole in her homestead and provides fellow villagers with clean drinking water.
At the moment, she said she supplies her milk to DenDairy.
“I am milking at least five cows which are giving me 20 litres of milk a day. I have also managed to buy two dairy cows which are pregnant at the moment and I expect to start milking them maybe in May.
The dairy cows are expensive, they can cost you at least US$1 500 to US$2 000 each. But that is a worthy investment because the moment you have them, you are guaranteed that you will recoup your investment,” she said.
“A litre of milk costs US$1 in the market. So as an aggregator I buy from community members for at least 90 cents. On average on my part, I sell about 120 litres of milk per week.
So, at the end of the month, I would have made about US$500 to US$600. I don’t even wish to be formally employed. I’m very content with what I’m doing. I can even do better than some people who are gainfully employed.”.
Mrs Mhlophe used to rely on her husband for sustenance but not anymore.
“Right now, I’m building this house. I was telling my husband that I want it tiled and have told him that I will be buying the tiles through the funds I get from dairy projects. While his salary complements us in a way, I’m happy that I can also contribute in a way,” said Mrs Mhlophe.
She said while selling milk was lucrative, the project demands a lot of cleanliness.
Mrs Mhlophe attributed her success to training that she and other communal dairy farmers receive from various organisations involved in dairy projects including the Zimbabwe Dairy Farmers Association.
Statistics show that the country requires 120 million litres of milk per annum but dairy farmers were producing at least 85 million with the deficit supplemented by imports.
The country has previously experienced milk shortages as farmers would be failing to supply milk citing viable challenges.
Umzingwane Dairy Farmers Association chairperson, Mr Talent Msimanga said dairy farming provides a lot of opportunities for small-scale farmers if they are properly trained. He said there is a huge market for milk which farmers cannot meet.
Mr Msimanga said while some communal dairy farmers are seasonal, others do it throughout the year as they have acquired dairy heifers.
“Most communal farmers are still seasonally milking their cows and I’m one of the people who are still using the traditional cattle.
They are giving me at least 12 litres per day and I can say you survive through selling milk to institutions after collaborating in its delivery. Some farmers have made inroads in acquiring dairy heifers something that we all hope to achieve some day,” said Mr Msimanga.
“The dairy business is about volumes and currently the volumes that are needed nationally are very high. The market is there but we are not able to satisfy that market.
Some farmers have not properly understood that dairy farming is a business. If properly managed it can transform the lives of the villagers who have cattle that they can milk.”
He said communal dairy farmers need to be adequately trained to realise the true value of their business.
“There are some capacity-building programmes that farmers receive from organisations such as the Zimbabwe Dairy Farmers Association.
We also have Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union, Agritex and veterinary officers providing training to farmers although some of the farmers do not really take the trainings seriously,” he said.
Article Source: The Chronicle