Improving the Quality of Rwanda?s Milk, While Turning a Profit
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Good, quality milk is one of the most nutrient-rich natural beverages available. Containing a healthy dose of at least nine essential vitamins and minerals, milk can be, quite literally, a lifesaver for populations suffering from an extremely nutrient-poor diet in developing countries.
Yet in Rwanda, where an estimated 90% of the population is still dependent on agriculture, and well over 60% live below the poverty line, milk consumption hovers around just 12 litres per person, per year. Compared to almost 100 litres per person annually in Kenya, and a lesser 22 litres per person in Uganda, Rwanda lags far behind both its East African neighbours, and the rest of the world, in overall milk consumption.
In early 2010, Dr. Josh Ruxin, an American global health expert and founder of “The Access Project,” a NGO in Rwanda, decided something needed to be done to fix Rwanda’s dairy problem. After nearly a decade of working to improve rural health facilities across Rwanda, Ruxin understood all too well the negative effects of malnutrition on Rwandan citizens.
His solution? Not another charity. Instead, inspired and supported by the Rwandan government’s “investment over aid” approach, which has been a central pillar of President Paul Kigame’s “Vision 2020” development agenda, Ruxin opted for a for-profit social endeavor, called Rwanda Ventures.
The company, founded in 2010, seeks to invest in profitable, market-based approaches addressing the nutrition challenges currently confronting Rwanda. “The goal,” says Ruxin, “is investing in the future of Rwanda’s health.”
Rwanda Venture’s first company, Kivu Dairy, is hoping to modernise Rwanda’s fractured dairy production while producing more nutritious and affordable milk for the country’s roughly 11 million citizens.
Kivu Dairy partners with farmers, cooperatives and dairy processors to lower the cost of milk to the point where Rwandans can afford it for their children, “the majority of whom are chronically malnourished from carbohydrate-rich, protein-poor diets” Ruxin says.