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Solar-powered Milk Chilling To Slash Dairy Farmers’ Fuel Expenses

by Jacquiline Nakandi
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By Prossy Nandudu & Wilfred Sanya 

Chilling milk is one of the value addition steps that farmers in the dairy sector have to practice on a daily basis in order to protect the milk from going bad.

Although some farmers have access to reliable electricity, the majority depend on either diesel or petrol generators to chill the milk, in the process, spending about sh300,000 per day to service the generators.

But for the sustainability of the sector, there is a need for lowering operational costs incurred on a daily basis such as fuel purchases to and to service generators.

That is the challenge that Heifer International working with the Ministry of Energy wants to address through the provision of solar energy to about 197 dairy cooperatives that depend on diesel to power their generators.

This was revealed by Heifer International country director William Matovu while offering solar technologies to dairy farmers in Kiboga district on May 24, 2024.

Matovu explained that over the past 12 years, the non-profit supported over 87 dairy producer organisations across Uganda with over 244 milk collection centres across the country.

“However, over 197 of the milk collection centres operate purely on diesel engines as a source of energy throughout. They rely on generators and spend as much as 40% of their total operational costs on fuel and maintenance of generators.

With the rising fuel prices, the cost of operation has increased by over 50%, drastically reducing the profit margins,” Matovu said.

He added that due to unreliable energy sources, producer organisations lose between 5-10% of their revenue due to power outages which leads to poor quality milk that has to be sold at low prices.

This investment in dairy farmers is supported by Solar for Sustainable Income in Diary (SSID) through the Powering Renewable Energy Opportunities (PREO) programme, co-funded by the IKEA Foundation and UK Aid via the Transforming Energy Access platform.

“From the project, solar photovoltaic systems have been installed in Kiboga and Sembabule districts to run milk chilling plants. Today, we are commissioning the solar PV systems for our dairy farmers in Kiboga,” he added.

He gave an example of Dwaniro Dairy and Livestock Farmers Cooperative Limited which he said has reduced milk losses at Migina Milk Collection Centre to zero. 

The 197,321 litres of milk worth $49,682 about sh191,275,700 are now chilled monthly, and the cooperative has reduced power costs from $36,450 about sh139,415,300 to $18,170 about sh69,954,500 a year. This has enabled farmers to save up to 46% per cent of what they earn from milk sales.

With the innovation in place, Matovu hopes that there will be an increase in procurement volumes and higher quality of milk in the dairy processors, increased revenues for processors, producer organisations and farmers due to higher volumes and reduced cooperatives’ operating costs by 30 per cent and reduction in carbon emissions from generators by 90 per cent.

LEAD PHOTO CAPTION: Ruth Nakanbirwa, the Minister of Energy and Mineral Development (center) prepares to cut a ribbon during the commissioning of the solar power for chilling milk at Kiyaranyonza milk collecting center in Dwaniro village, Kiboga district. Photo by Wilfred Sanya 

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