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Business brains helping Uganda dairy farmers milk it

Impact case study for REF 2021: Business and Management Studies (UoA 17)

Waste-saving ideas borrowed from Japanese car makers are the magic formula helping Uganda’s dairy farmers produce 75% more milk.

Lean thinking – originally Toyota’s recipe to cut waste in car manufacturing – proved the magic formula to switch up dairy production across Western Uganda’s Rwenzori region.

Brunel Business School supply chains expert Dr Manoj Dora worked with hundreds of dairy farmers, cooperatives, food processors and suppliers to streamline the journey from cow to carton.

Dr Dora spotted bottlenecks, waste hotspots and losses across the region’s dairy network, and streamlined the system to make the most of resources and dramatically pump up productivity.

“Traditional methods caused a lot of waste and led to considerable losses of money,” said Dr Dora. “In the past, these dairy farmers just kept producing endlessly. But now, incorporating lean management methods into their day-to-day operations, suppliers are starting to respond to demand.

“This is greener, more sustainable farming. When you use fewer resources,” said Dora, “you use less energy, less water – those are the extra advantages of applying lean.”

Realising most Rwenzori’s dairy farmers had smartphones, Dr Dora and team developed a ‘Cowalytics’ app that lets Rwenzori dairy farmers use their mobile phones to market their milk and see the latest changing prices. Working with Uganda’s Mountains of the Moon University, they also put the cows on a healthy diet, with farmers swapping tips about the best breeds and grasses to feed them.

cowalitics app explained

Over its 12-year lifespan, the research funded by the Institutional University Cooperation boosted the region’s milk production by 120%, from 10 litres of milk per day per cow to 22 litres. Ten new milk collection centres and milk coolers started to make farmer’s jobs easier, and they made 72% more money from processing and marketing milk products such as cheeses, bottled milk, yogurt, ice cream and butter.

The Food Supply Management System designed by the team has benefited not only the farmers in the region who have implemented the system but also its wider community – Rwenzori region – economically by establishing a new sustainable partnership model between an academic institution and an industry.

Dr Dora’s lean farming principles have helped not only Rwenzori’s dairy farmers, but also brought vast economic, social, ecological, and educational improvements to the lives of the region’s people.

“If a car company can use it,” Dr Dora said, “then why can’t it help farmers become more efficient too?”


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Project last modified 11/05/2022