The BD4FS Ambassador Firm Approach:
Example from a Dairy Value Chain in Senegal
Livestock farming is an important sector in the Senegalese agricultural economy. Traditionally, farmers in Senegal have owned cattle for a variety of purposes including milk, meat, draught power and milk processing activities. Under current conditions, milk is usually a by-product of livestock production and is often processed (into fermented products, i.e., yoghurt, cheese) to extend its shelf life for local consumption. But in the absence of a functioning cold chain1 and inappropriate food handling, farmers struggle to reach more profitable markets for their fresh dairy products.
Dairy farmers in northern Senegal are pastoralists who travel nomadically and seasonally to find greener pastures for their animals. This makes it difficult for processors like Laiterie de Berger (LDB) to collect milk. Therefore, LDB has set up a collection system that allows independent or salaried collectors to collect milk from farmers every day by motorcycle or tricycle. LDB created a subsidiary company, Kossam SDE that provides milk collection and services to farmers in order to build their loyalty. Kossam SDE is an autonomous company resulting from the collaboration of LDB and the Association of Dairy Cooperatives. Since April 2019, it has taken over all the services provided by the dairy to breeders and producers, including collection. Kossam SDE depends on LDB’s refrigerated collection centers.2 There are a few collection centers in the region supported by international donors and Senegalese NGOs, however, LDB is the only business in the region capable of absorbing significant volumes.
The Feed the Future Business Drivers for Food Safety (BD4FS) project in Senegal has recognized LDB as a leading firm or “Ambassador” in the dairy value chain. An “Ambassador firm” is a well-established business that has a branded product or products with a good local reputation, an established QMS (quality management system) and has either been certified or is working towards certification. These firms help BD4FS facilitate access to small and medium growing food businesses (GFBs) who are part of their supply or value chain(s). The primary mission of LDB is to connect rural milk supply to growing demand in urban areas. Through its signature co-design process, BD4FS and LDB reviewed potential points of contamination in the dairy value chain and recognized that producers—at the beginning of the value chain—required training and technical assistance in safer food handling.
This collaborative co-design experience with a lead firm in the dairy sector illustrates the effectiveness of the BD4FS Ambassador Firms approach4 where the targeted selection of GFBs within a value chain can successfully “pull” upstream actors (suppliers) to adopt safer food handling practices while simultaneously benefiting downstream actors who benefit from greater access to safer food.
Laiterie du Berger: Connecting Rural Milk Supply to Urban Demand
Founded in 2007 and located in the town of Richard Toll, Laiterie du Berger (LDB) obtains fresh milk from more than 2500 local producers. It sells various dairy products such as whole fresh milk in bottles and cartons, yoghurt and “tiakry” (mixture of millet or wheat grains and yoghurt). Its “Dolima” branded products are available in supermarkets and small food shops. The dairy services LDB established in its facility have created new commercial impetus enhancing smallholders’ livestock production in the area. LDB provides farmers with veterinary and other extension services, milk collection, and market development whereby producers are subsidized with a package of inputs including animal feed.
LDB collects from producers dispersed in areas poorly served by reliable transport routes. These producers, who are also breeders, are organized in a cooperative of more than 2500 people. LDB’s services allow these breeders and producers to have regular additional income. Still, their approach does not fully prevent milk losses. This is due to several reasons:
Risks of quality degradation: milk is sometimes left unchilled, in open containers for up to three hours before it enters the cold chain, enough time to become contaminated.
Inappropriate practices pre-collection: Producers do not follow recommended breeding practices such as staggered calving periods during the year; they prefer to concentrate births in rainy season when natural pastures are green. This traditional practice allows them to feed the cows at the lowest cost and to produce enough milk to feed the calves, however, the rainy season is a particularly wet period that fosters the development of germs and mastitis that can infect the milk.
Milking hygiene: handling and storage utensils, etc. if not properly cleaned can adversely affect milk quality even before it is collected.
On-site storage: Most small dairy producers lack adequate storage and cooling facilities for their milk.
Transportation infrastructure: Rural roads are many times far from electrical grids, frequently in a bad state, and can be impassable in the wet months which can negatively impact the quality of the milk collected.
BD4FS Works with Local Champions to Impact Value Chains
BD4FS works with local business champions, like the Ambassador firms — that understand the importance of food safety to their bottom line — and provides food safety training to their suppliers to meet quality standards and comply with food safety protocols. This approach positively impacts the entire value chain as other suppliers are motivated to adopt promoted practices in order to become an authorized supplier to the Ambassador firm. During cocreation, BD4FS worked with the firm to analyze the most critical points of food safety vulnerability in their supply chain and identify training and capacity building opportunities for their employees and suppliers. To that end, BD4FS trained 374 producers, including 234 women and 131 young people. Topics included: hygiene practices, product handling, quality maintenance, and methods to improve the shelf life of products. The primary objective of the trainings is to build the uptake of food safety practices of milk producers to improve the safety as well as the quality of their milk to sell to LBD. Raising awareness and increasing knowledge about food safety and food handling of dairy products was key to achieving this objective. The first part of the training entailed sensitizing producers on food safety, particularly by improving their knowledge of good hygiene practices for milk collection. Then conveying easy-to-implement food safety practices followed. Dairy men and women have reported that BD4FS trainings have had a positive impact by increasing their knowledge of proper food safety practices. Building the capacity of local producers through the LDB partnership offers the potential for milk producers to have a regular income each month. The producers of the region, primarily the Fulani women, will have met their daily expenses due to the steady income from LDB as well as selling surpluses at a higher retail price (from door-to-door markets)
that they can now command because of better quality milk. Beyond raw fresh milk, there is more market potential for value-added, processed dairy products. For example, traditional curdled milk sold in small quantities in Dakar at high prices is widely available in secondary towns and rural markets at very competitive prices. Moving it to urban markets where demand, and consequently prices, are higher is the challenge. Other traditional products such as artisanal butter or "diw nior" (butter oil) are also present in small quantities but could most likely be expanded with the right support. These foods are in demand in the cities, but the distances between the production sites and the cities contribute to their scarcity. Improving the sanitary quality of these dairy products may improve handling and preservation methods, reduce losses, and promote an increase in income through the sale of products with greater added value while helping to reduce the risk of contamination.
By supporting LDB, the BD4FS project contributes to improving quality in the milk value chain in the Richard Toll area of northern Senegal. Beyond capacity building for growing food businesses, BD4FS also works with local business champions so that the positive effects of promoting food safety are passed on to all the actors and helps to expand the “food safety culture” of Senegal. In 2022, BD4FS trained 3,500 agrifood production actors in milk, meat, egg, fish, fruit and vegetable value chains in Senegal.
Focusing on the role of GFBs in improving food safety, the FES team contributes to USAID's knowledge base, strategies, and methodologies for enterprise-level assistance in food systems. BD4FS's mission is to provide technical assistance and capacity building, develop best practices from lessons learned, and generate success for entrepreneurs working to improve food safety.
The vision of BD4FS is that food safety management should be tailored to the needs of the interested food company.
Therefore, co-creation with the growing food business is the pillar of the BD4FS intervention approach. This diversity of needs across sectors and enterprises feeds the project's learning system about what are truly the business drivers for food safety.
This experience with LDB, which is still ongoing, already shows how the involvement of private sector ambassador businesses, through better organization of food value chains, can contribute to improving food safety. Indeed, raw material suppliers are trained by BD4FS, as part of the technical assistance, on the best ways to improve their products in line with the specifications of their industrial client. BD4FS, through its co-creation approach, responds specifically to the needs identified by the beneficiaries. This approach has the merit of promoting not only awareness of health and economic risks, with 69% of beneficiaries remembering the key messages delivered during training, but also the adoption of good food safety practices. In 2022, of the 3678 beneficiaries of BD4FS training, 81% have adopted at least one good safety practice. The combined action of the ambassador companies and BD4FS on the value chains will impact producers through better control of food losses and, on the economic level, income generation, especially for women producers. BD4FS, in addition to the growing food businesses it supports, will continue to work with leading companies to help promote a culture of food safety at the grassroots level.