Southern Africa

Milk cans at Ol Kalou Dairy Plant, Kenya (photo credit: ILRI/Paul Karaimu).

A new research report (Oct 2020) by scientists from the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) reviews the status and policy contexts of informal milk markets in Kenya, Tanzania and Assam (India) to better understand the opportunities for a policy innovation based on training and certification to overcome market access barriers for sellers of informal milk by improving the health and safety practices of informal milk traders, thereby addressing policymakers’ concerns. It is based on an extensive review of available literature and a small number of expert interviews and contributions.


Blackmore, E., Guarín, A., Alonso, S., Grace, D. and Vorley, B. 2020. Informal milk markets in Kenya, Tanzania and Assam (India): An overview of their status, policy context, and opportunities for policy innovation to improve health and safety. ILRI Project Report. Nairobi, Kenya: ILRI.

Photo credit: Milk cans at the Ol Kalou Dairy Plant, Kenya (ILRI/Paul Karaimu)

To the grazing field, Afar, Ethiopia

Cattle going to the grazing field in Afar region, Ethiopia (photo credit: ILRI/Apollo Habtamu).

Climate change influences the occurrence and transmission of a wide range of livestock diseases through multiple pathways. Diseases caused by pathogens that spent part of their life cycle outside the host (for instance, in vectors or the environment) are more sensitive in this regard, compared to those caused by obligate pathogens.

A newly published book, The Climate-Smart Agriculture Papers, brings together some of the latest research by agricultural scientists on climate-smart agriculture in eastern and southern Africa. The 25 chapters of the book highlight ongoing efforts to better characterize climate risks, develop and disseminate climate-smart varieties and farm management practices, and integrate these technologies into well-functioning value chains.

In a chapter on climate change and livestock diseases, scientists from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) use two well-studied vector-borne diseases—Rift Valley fever and tick-borne diseases—as case studies to describe direct pathways through which climate change influences infectious disease-risk in East and southern Africa.

Access the chapter, Climate change and infectious livestock diseases: The case of Rift Valley fever and tick-borne diseases by Bernard Bett, Johanna Lindahl and Delia Grace.

Testing milk in Kenya's informal market

Testing the quality of raw milk in Kenya’s informal market. A new study has identified options that could help improve milk quality in Zambia’s Western Province (photo credit: ILRI/Dave Elsworth).

Solar pasteurisation and quality-based pricing of milk are among interventions whose feasibility should be explored towards improving the safety of milk produced by smallholders in Western Province of Zambia, a new study says.

The study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (July 2016) was carried out to assess the microbiological quality of fresh cow’s milk along smallholder dairy value chains in Western Province of Zambia. The focus was on milk sold through dairy co-operatives near Mongu, the main town in the province.

Milk samples were collected at the farm level from 86 cows from nine herds and from the container of pooled milk from the herd. Samples were also collected upon arrival at the two dairy co-operatives (Limulunga and Mongu) to which the pooled milk was delivered. Additional serial samples were collected at the co-operatives and refrigerated to simulate the recommended storage conditions after purchase or at the co-operatives.

Microbiological analysis of the milk samples assessed the counts of total bacteria and coliforms and tested for the presence of Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, Bacillus species and Streptococcus species.

The milk at the farm level initially had low levels of bacteria but the microbial counts increased along the value chain as the milk was transported to the co-operative. This is in part due to the absence of a cold chain between milking and the point of sale.

Although coliform counts were low, a high proportion of samples were contaminated with S. aureus and E. coli, suggesting poor handling and faecal contamination, respectively. However, the most critical observation with regard to milk safety was the lack of pasteurisation or boiling, which would eliminate almost all microbial pathogens present.

The study therefore proposes that more work should be done to look into the feasibility of various interventions that could improve the quality of milk produced and sold in the region.

“Sustainable methods of milk pasteurisation should be investigated, as a microbial-kill step is needed to mitigate upstream contamination,” the authors observe.

Solar pasteurisation has been suggested as a possible option to be explored, in light of unreliable electricity supply, low levels of technical support and low volumes of milk handled at the dairy co-operatives.

“Paying producers more for safer, higher quality milk would create an incentive for producer investment in milk quality,” they add. Currently, all farmers receive the same price for their milk, regardless of the quality.

Selling milk to large dairies is not feasible at the moment because the quantities of milk produced are low and inconsistent. Also, most consumers prefer to buy milk from the informal sector.

Therefore, raising awareness of the need to boil milk before consumption is another important intervention that would improve milk safety at the consumer stage of the value chain by eliminating the pathogen risk. In addition, it may increase consumers’ willingness to pay for pasteurised milk.

Theodore J.D. Knight-Jones and others. Microbial contamination and hygiene of fresh cow’s milk produced by smallholders in western Zambia (International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 21 July 2016).