Catharinus Wierda is Global Programme Manager Dairy for Solidaridad. With almost 50 years of experience in facilitating the development of socially responsible, ecologically sound and profitable supply chains, Solidaridad is a frontrunner in the area of sustainable economic development. Solidaridad is an international market- and solution oriented civil society organization working through nine regional expertise centres in 50 countries and across 13 global sectors.
Catharinus is responsible for the global strategy, gives support to the regional offices to develop new dairy programmes and is building partnerships with companies. He is son of a dairy farmer and has more than 20 years experience in the dairy sector in The Netherlands and abroad. Before he joined Solidaridad he worked for Wageningen UR, a dairy cooperative, the Dairy Association and the Dutch Government.
Give dairy farmers a market
The rise of the middle class in many developing countries has created a growing demand for dairy and represents a major opportunity for small-scale dairy farmers. Although there are many development programmes, the participation of smallholder farmers in this growing formal and high-quality market is limited. Lack of cooling and quality control are the main barriers to establishing trust between dairy companies and farmers, but there are other issues besides. The strategies of dairy companies, farmers’ cooperatives and government policies need to be aligned in order to develop a modern sector. How can we close the gap between the current poor dairy production structures, where family farms typically have 1-3 cows producing 1-4 kg of milk each, and the growing demand for high-quality produce in the formal market? How can we create strong relationships in the local value chain?
Solidaridad’s vision involves using innovative solutions to drive change. Local dairy production needs to develop towards having larger farms (> 10 cows with >10 kg milk per cow) using modern techniques for milking, cooling, housing and herd management. Furthermore, it requires professional methods of fodder production and young stock rearing. Farms are managed by families, communities and/or new entrepreneurs. Another aspect of the solution is creating a dedicated sourcing structure with quality-based payment systems and partnerships with dairy companies. Besides, expanding farmers’ capacity, this will require investment and the application of available technology on farms, as well as local sourcing and an improved farmer service structure drawn up in partnership with dairy companies, impact investors and governments. Solidaridad is looking for partners to start developing tailored solutions and upscale of these multi-stakeholder programmes in cooperation with our partners in market and finance.
Professionalizing dairy farming in developing countries will contribute not only towards more inclusive economic development, employment and poverty reduction, but also to more sustainable production. It will improve food security and animal welfare and reduce the impact on water use, land use and climate change. Sustainable production in developing countries will improve the image of the global dairy industry.
By daring to create a market for farmers in developing countries, we can benefit farmers, dairy companies and the global dairy sector.