In a bid to improve the quality and standards of milk produced in Rwanda, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has sponsored training officers who will ensure standards are met.
At least 14 veterinarians from across the country completed a-10-day training on clinical milk microbiology, courtesy of Rwanda Diary Competitiveness Program II (RDCPII) a USAID sponsored project in collaboration with experts from the University of California-Davis (UC Davis).
The trainees graduated with certificates equivalent to 1 year of training.
Rwanda currently has a challenge of producing quality milk to meet the international standards. Though Rwanda is known as country of milk, and has about 1.3million cows-which produce over 2million litres of milk on a daily basis, Rwanda still depends on imported milk from its neighbors- Uganda and Kenya.
Only five percent of the total milk collected is processed through the existing five milk collection centers in the country. That means that the rest of the milk is not able to reach the main processing outlets and possibly doesn’t meet the standards of the factories.
In order to tackle this problem, the Director General of Rwanda Agricultural Board (RAB), Prof Jean Jacques Mbonigaba Muhinda, says that there are two main challenges especially- the quality and productivity of milk that need to be addressed in order to improve the milk standards in Rwanda..
International milk export standards (based in the EU and US) require milk to have at least a 5log CFU/ml. Rwanda has slightly above that average mark, and need to reduce the level to the international standards.
The UC Davis representative, Prof Raymond Rodriguez said that he was optimistic that the training would impact on the practices of the Rwandan veterinarians and be in position to disseminate the skills to others.
“It is going to be a challenge for Rwanda to put the methodology of Diary Dynamics Management into practice, but I am confident that Rwanda can do it. If this is met, the whole world market will come to Rwanda and everyone will be asking how you (Rwanda) did it” he said.
The Chief of Party of RDCPII/USAID, Frank O’Brien says that the next stage of this training will be field based activities where students will carry out field sampling from dairy farmers and milk samples will be monitored periodically.
“It’s our hope that this farmer outreach program can be adopted in Vet schools because they have the potential to transform the milk quality and allow Rwanda to become a milk hub, it deserves to be, in this region” O’Brien said.
Rwanda Bureau of Standards (RBS) Director General, Dr. Mark Cyubahiro, agrees that Rwanda can meet these standards but suggests that there is need to a continued collaboration with the experts from UC Davis to have capacity building especially technical assistance to overhaul the education curriculum in the newly established institutions now under the University of Rwanda.
Dr. Jean Pierre Muganga, who also benefited from the training, says that the practical aspects of some of the knowledge imparted in students are lacking and such a s training has been an eye opener to his job.
“I have realized that we need to include such trainings in our syllabus because even as a teacher, I have only had theoretical knowledge, but the practical aspect of clinical milk microbiology is needed if we are to impact on the standards of milk” Dr. Muganga said.