Cash Cows

Agnes Mulindwa’s days are packed. The 46-year-old lives in the village of Butale, Uganda, near the northwest coast of Lake Victoria. She raises fifteen children. Five are her own, and ten are nieces and nephews who became her responsibility when her brother passed away.

But her charges don’t end there. She also raises cows. This is her second try at dairy farming. The first time, about a decade ago, she received a cow from a U.K.-based organization called Send a Cow. Her plan was to use some of the cow’s milk to nourish her family and then sell the rest at market. But it didn’t work out. She did not know how to care for a cow and had little access to veterinary services. Even if she could find health care for her cow, there was no way to pay the fees. But the biggest problem was that even when her cow produced enough milk for market, it was difficult to sell it.

Small dairy farmers across Uganda, Kenya, and Rwanda faced similar problems. Dairy processing plants would send agents on motorbikes or trucks long distances to collect milk from individual farmers. But many times the agents did not arrive. Milk often spoiled before it reached its destination. Quality was never consistent, and neither were prices. Dairy processors used their upper hand to pay rock bottom.