Kazakhstan: new mobile app helps to boost capacity of dairy farmers

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ASTANA (TCA) — The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), together with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), has designed and adapted to the dairy context a mobile app, Collect Mobile, which helps milk processors in Kazakhstan geo-locate current and potential raw milk suppliers, most of whom are smallholder or family farmers. This connection helps to improve their production and therefore their livelihoods, the EBRD press office reported.

In Kazakhstan, between 2 and 2.5 million families earn a living from the dairy sector and 80 percent of all the country’s milk comes from smallholder farmers who own four or fewer cows.

The dairy industry in Kazakhstan faces many challenges, but most of them are directly related to the vast distances that the milk must travel for processing and the high fragmentation of milk supplies.

The country does not have enough milk collection centres to serve the large number of milk producers or meet the demand of milk processors, and the route from farms to dairy processing plants can span hundreds of kilometres, leading to high transport costs and risk of spoilage.

Kazakhstan’s milk industry has significant potential for growth, but it still faces many problems. Smallholders currently produce approximately 80 percent of the national milk output. However, owing to long and complex value chains, milk producers and processors are often not in contact with one another leading to a lack of mutual understanding of the challenges related to producing and delivering high-quality milk. When direct linkages are missing, it is difficult for processors to convey quality requirements and for producers to provide the information necessary to enable efficient milk collection.

That’s where Collect Mobile comes in. Milk processors conduct field-based surveys using the Collect Mobile app, an FAO-borne app adapted from the OpenForis suite, to capture, validate and analyse data on milk availability. With GPS-equipped Android devices, processors use the app to geo-locate potential and current raw milk suppliers.

Kazakh dairy companies rely on hundreds of milk suppliers scattered across the expansive country. The app helps to locate and better manage these large lists of producers, saving time on paperwork. It also helps to optimize collection routes in order to reduce transportation costs and forecast the capacity needs of cooling tanks and refrigeration transport.

Furthermore, Collect Mobile promotes direct interaction between processors and farmers and enables dairy companies to provide advice on various topics from improved hygiene to farm management. Through this app and data-collection method, processors receive accurate information about existing sources of raw milk including volume, seasonal availability, quality characteristics and, most importantly, the growth potential of each supplier, helping to diagnose what is preventing farmers from producing more and better-quality milk.

The goal of the app is to modernize practices to help farmers become more competitive and to build trust between the farmers and the milk processors. In other words, Collect Mobile helps to boost the capacity of dairy farmers, in particular family and smallholder farmers, to increase their production and quality of milk. It also assists the private sector in taking informed decisions on their supply chain management and expansion.

Everybody benefits from the approach: farmers boost their incomes because of stable sales to a factory and improve their production thanks to the increased availability of knowledge; processors gain efficiency in their supply chain management, and the final consumer is offered a high-quality Kazakh product.

Sergey Kwan

TCA