We contribute to sustainable dairy development in emerging markets

We engage in the sustainable development of the local dairy sector in the emerging markets in which we operate. It is expected of us as a leading international dairy group and we believe that a trusted and flourishing local dairy sector will benefit both local small farmers and domestic and international dairy companies. 

Our focus is on Nigeria, Bangladesh, China, Indonesia and Ethiopia, where we are committed to meeting the needs of the present population, without compromising opportunities for future generations. Our ambitions for sustainable international dairy development are aligned to the UN's sustainable development goals.

Nigeria is an emerging market where we have been engaging in the development of the local dairy sector for several years. Here's our story.

In the words of our chairman, Jan Toft Nørgaard


Beginnings of a better future

“Previously, the cows were drinking from the ponds. Now, they have fresh water and are well-fed. You can tell from their skin that they look healthy. We are very happy, and we are already starting to see the results.”

This is one of many positive impacts the Milky Way Partnership Nigeria is having on dairy farmer Alhaji Sani Aliyu. And he’s not alone. Over 76 small dairy farmers, one medium sized farmer and the National Animal Production Research Institute in Nigeria are experiencing the beginnings of a better future.

Typically, dairy farmers like Alhaji Sani Aliyu have a herd of just four to eight cows, usually the dominant White Fulani breed, which is well adapted to Nigeria’s landscapes and climate. Very few farmers have their own grazing lands or access to a permanent source of water. This means they are continuously moving in search of these fundamental requirements. Milk collection is basic, by hand into small open bowls or buckets, and the amount collected is 0.5 - 1.2 litres and heavily dependent on seasonality. While tending the cattle is done primarily by the men, the women do the milking. Of the milk that isn’t consumed directly by the farmers’ family or fed to the calves, the women manually transform it into a simple yogurt base, which they take to the nearest town and sell to local processors. The revenue they receive is an important source of income for the women.

Alhaji Sani Aliyu
Dairy Farmer

Daily challenges and extreme conditions

With little, if any, access to electricity, keeping the milk chilled and therefore of decent, saleable quality in the extreme heat is a daily challenge for many farmers.

The current structure of Nigeria’s local dairy industry enables it to supply less than 10 per cent of the country’s current demand for dairy. This is a gap that is increasing exponentially. Nigeria’s population is experiencing one of the biggest growth spurts in the world; by 2050 the population is set to rise to over 390 million people, seeing it surpass that of the USA. This is creating an urgent long-term need for more and better access to nutritious food and dairy will play an important part.

A dual commitment

It is against this background, Arla’s ambitious growth targets for its Sub Sahara African business plus its firm commitment to leading the way on delivering on the UN’s sustainable development goals, that the Milky Way Partnership Nigeria was conceived, in 2015. 

“As well as making a commitment to grow our business in the long term, primarily through the import of nutritious dairy products made from our European farmer owners’ milk, we initiated the Milky Way Partnership. It is our commitment to Nigeria that our business activities will not have a negative impact on local dairy farmers or their communities."

"The country is experiencing an extreme rise in its population, which it needs to address. Having made this long term commitment we believe we have a key role to play by positively contributing to helping Nigeria meet its nutritional needs. And the Milky Way Partnership goes much further than that. It is actively supporting the commercial and sustainable development of the local dairy sector through the creation of a vertically integrated dairy value chain, which involves processing, production and marketing of milk,” explains Steen Hadsbjerg, Arla’s head of Sub Sahara Africa.

Creating a sustainable future for Nigeria's dairy farmers


Public-private partnership

The Milky Way Partnership is a collaboration between Arla, as commercial lead, the NGO Care Denmark, the Danish Agricultural and Food Council, Seges and the Nigerian pastoralist organisation Coret, and is supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark. The project is based in the north of the country, in Kaduna State. 

The selection of the farmers who were invited to be involved with the project was given great consideration, and a variety of farmers, in differing scenarios, were chosen to test the model’s ability to be scaled up and transferred to different areas in the country. This was done in collaboration with Milcopal, a local dairy cooperative, already experienced with working with local farmers and sharing Arla’s cooperative values.

Since the inception of project and the recruitment of the farmers, providing access to basic primary materials has been a priority for the project. For the clusters without access to water, boreholes have been established. Grazing pastures have been planted, creating a stable food source – both of which have been lifechanging for some farmers.

Generating an income

With milk production traditionally being a by-product of cattle breeding, turning it into a business which can generate a steady income has been a key strand of the project’s remit.

Working with a local partner, a series training programmes are being delivered to the dairy farmers out in the field, including dairy business, milk and hygiene, fodder, feeds and feeding, cooperatives formation and management and herd management.

“Milk quality and quantity is imperative for development of the dairy sector; therefore, training farmers to help them to produce more milk of better quality is a driving force to convert milk production into a business for farmers. And this is essentially what the project aims to achieve; a socially, environmentally and economically sustainable dairy supply chain that allows both small farmers and large companies to produce and deliver their products to the market. Ensuring that women also have a role is a priority,” explains Jonas Engberg, head of partnerships and innovation, Care Denmark.

"This will help our animals and our earnings will increase"

Saidu Adamu Yalle
Dairy Farmer

Major milestone

While building the capacities of both the farmers and their animals are two of the three major objectives of the project, the third, which is to provide an off-take model for the farmers’ milk and market it locally, has recently come to fruition.

In three of the four clusters, brand new, automated milk parlours, have now been installed, revolutionising both the collection and distribution of milk, which is taken in chilled lorries to the Kaduna Dairy Plant for processing into locally sold dairy products. This element of the project has created several local employment opportunities, including the management of the milking stations, drivers of the milk collection vehicles and additional positions in Kaduna Dairy, which Arla is upgrading.

Positive impact

“We are delighted to see the outcomes we are seeking from the Milky Way Partnership coming to life, these being increased income and job opportunities for local farmers and employees in the dairy sector, which in turn means we are helping improve livelihoods. These positive impacts are directly in line with several of the UN's sustainability goals and with Arla’s commitment to responsible business conduct,” explains Steen.

He continues that this wasn’t the company’s only motivation to initiate the project, Steen is very open that Nigeria is an attractive country in which to do business.

“Responsibility has become business. The two are inter-related. It’s a commercial requirement and a license to operate. While we’re strengthen Nigeria’s dairy supply chain to enable a consistent, safer, sustainable supply of locally produced milk, it is highly unlikely, even in the long term, that the market can be self-sufficient due to the climate and environmental conditions. If we succeed in lifting not only the Nigerian dairy sector but also the country’s economy, that offers all players within the dairy supply chain significant opportunities.” 

"It will change our lives"

Amina Sani
Women Leader, Amana Dairy Cooperative

Building on success

Such is the success of the Milky Way Partnership, Arla is partnering with the Nigerian Government and Kaduna State to use the model to further unlock the potential of the country’s dairy sector and improve the livelihoods of many more dairy farmers and their families.

“Up to 1,000 dairy farmers and their families can look forward to a permanent place to stay in an area of approximately 6000 hectares of land in Northern Nigeria that is provided by Kaduna State, while Arla is providing a processing facility and will sell and market the products produced from the farmers’ milk. I am absolutely delighted the Milky Way Partnership has paved the way for what could be a major catalyst for change in Nigeria,” says Steen.

In the words of our Executive Vice President of International, Tim Ørting Jørgensen