Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?
Burkina Faso is among the poorest countries in the world with over 80% of the population surviving on subsistence farming. The climate is changing dramatically and farmers who rely solely on agriculture are incredibly vulnerable to the consequences of unpredictable rainfall. However, farmers lack options and access to resources to significantly diversify their income sources. Furthermore, the high level of youth unemployment is a serious problem as most youth lack marketable skills and connections to employment opportunities. Currently almost half of the country’s population is under the age of 15. Without meaningful solutions, extreme poverty will only increase in the future as these youth come of age and cannot support their families.
Additionally, malnourishment levels are high in Burkina Faso. In particular, milk consumption is dangerously low, as milk is an essential food that contains protein and an array of vitamins and minerals necessary for healthy development of bones, teeth, brain functioning, muscle capacity and blood flow. It is estimated that children should consume about 50 kilograms of milk per year; however, in Burkina Faso the average milk consumption among children is less than half of this at about 22 kilograms per year. For extremely poor families, milk consumption is even lower. Because of droughts in the 1970s, only the sturdiest, most drought resistant cattle survived, but they do not produce significant amounts of milk. Further complicating the situation is that the culture of the Fulani, the traditional cattle herders and dairy producers, values the number of cattle regardless of the cattle’s health or productivity.
Due to broken and inefficient milk value chains, Burkina Faso, a small predominately rural country with over 7 million cows, imports $20 million USD worth of milk annually, including some powdered milk of questionable quality. Of the 180 million liters of milk produced in the country, only 20% reaches the market, as the rest is consumed at home or thrown out because the producers lack market access. Despite its potential, the dairy industry has been neglected in favor of the agriculture sector, partially because investing in the dairy industry typically requires multiple years of waiting for a return on investment while agriculture loans can begin being repaid within a year. This lack of financing and infrastructure investment further discourages farmers from launching dairy businesses.
Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!
Leon is dramatically reducing poverty and improving access to essential nutrients throughout West Africa by modernizing the dairy industry and creating a comprehensive package of resources for farmers and entrepreneurs across income levels. Milk contains nutrients essential for healthy development, and is particularly critical for children; however, most children receive less than half of the recommended servings of milk. Even though Burkina Faso is a country known for cattle production and exports meat to neighboring countries, it must resort to importing its milk products. Leon is enabling the citizens of Burkina Faso and other African countries to meet their milk intake needs and export to countries with milk deficits.
To improve the level of health in Burkina Faso, Leon is modernizing milk production by enabling the creation of highly productive small scale dairy farms and developing the dairy value chain. The existing dairy industry is unproductive in part because the majority of cattle in Burkina Faso do not produce much77 milk. Leon is dramatically augmenting the quantity of milk produced by first strengthening local cattle breeds through cross breeding with more productive cattle. The mixed breed offspring produces more than 12 times as much milk as the local cows would independently. To further develop the value chain and ensure the increased milk production is widely available, Leon is prompting investment in large scale dairy processing facilities that will buy milk from these new dairy farms and distribute to retailers after processing. Leon influenced the government to build an industrial milk transformation facility in each of the two largest cities of Burkina Faso by demonstrating that these modernized dairy farms provide a sufficient quantity of inputs for large scale processing.
These highly productive dairy farms require improved methods of care for cattle and new techniques of managing natural resources. In order to address this, Leon trains and creates new tools to prepare farmers to effectively care for the cattle and maximize dairy production before the new cows arrive on the farm. Farmers learn proper feeding techniques and meal composition as well as how to monitor cattle health and prevent disease. He also trains farmers how to transform manure into compost and bio gas, which can be used for processing of milk or cooking. Rather than rely solely on top down knowledge transfer, Leon enables dairy farmers to share their developing expertise with each other. He has created a platform that enables dairy farmers to come together and collaborate to solve problems, exchange knowledge and share experiences.
Leon is reducing extreme poverty by enabling the spread of these modernized dairy farms through a portfolio of startup options for farmers of different income levels and by expanding dairy production beyond the ethnic groups that traditionally produced milk. To reduce youth unemployment, Leon is creating a new profession for young adults to staff and manage these dairy farms. Leon provides training and internships at his farm to create a workforce that has the skills and knowledge to effectively care for these improved cattle and maximize production. After months of free training, he places youth in full-time employment in his network of farms.