Danone Algeria, in collaboration with non-profit partner GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit) and with the support of the Danone Ecosystem Fund, is launching the H’lib Dzair project in the north of Algeria. This replication of the Milky Way project in Tunisia tackles core local issues in Algeria, where small farmers are facing a need for technical skills, training and suitable equipment. The Algerian market has not yet found a balance between the huge internal demand for dairy and the supply farmers are able to produce (90% of the agriculture system is composed of low-productivity subsistence farms). The H’lib Dzair project aims to support small milk producers and provide them with technical expertise by implementing training and individual audits. It will also give them access to appropriate equipment, in order to increase their efficiency and productivity. We asked Abderrazak Halfaoui, project manager of H’lib Dzair, a few questions to improve our understanding of what is at stake.
How did the project start?
When I joined Danone, back in 2010, the teams were already thinking about developing a project for Algerian producers. We have spent quite some time reflecting on what we could bring that would be useful to the farmers, and also on finding the right partners to work with, since all of Ecosystem’s projects must be carried out by a local NGO. (Editor’s note: the partner they eventually chose is GIZ, a federal German company that assists the German government in achieving its objectives in the field of international cooperation.) We looked at what Danone was doing elsewhere, like the Educampo project in Brazil and the Milky Way project in Tunisia, which we had the opportunity to visit. And, in 2013, we formalised the idea of working on technical support and providing an innovation that would guarantee the cold chain from the producer to the factory. We presented our project to the Social Innovation Committee for approval at the end of February 2014.
What challenges does this project aim to tackle?
Most farmers in Algeria haven’t really professionalised their activity: their yield is average and farm management is inefficient. This means their businesses make little profit. With H’lib Dzair, we aim to help them develop long-term, in accordance with their means and resources. We work with them on applying certain norms, readjusting their farming practices, etc. We will provide them with theoretical training and, thanks to our network of technicians, they will benefit from fairly close support to help them put in practice what they will have learned during training. Ultimately, this will increase their incomes, and sustain their farms. It is a win-win situation, because it secures Danone’s milk supply chain, improving milk quality and increasing production.
Abderrazak Halfaoui, project manager of H’lib Dzair
What is the next step?
We are now in the launch phase, which means we are hiring the technicians and team leader. We are focusing on small and middle-sized farms, i.e. farms that have potential to develop but are not too big (the larger ones are targeted by other projects). Working with small producers means we collect milk through collection centres, where all the milk produced in one region is centralised before being sent to the factory. Ultimately, we will have 81 mobile cooling tanks and a network of 29 technicians (1 or 2 per collection centre, depending on size). For the launch phase, we are starting off with 6 technicians in January 2015, to be joined by 6 more in June.
And what about the longer-term future for H’lib Dzair?
One of our goals for the future is to go further in the spirit of Ecosystem projects, by creating a community among the farmers. We are looking at actions not necessarily directly related to milk production, such as the creation of cooperatives to help farmers share best practices. Another one of our aims is to help the farmers diversify their activities and find other income streams: we would like to help them develop the production of concentrate feed from locally cultivated products. Since Algeria imports many of the products it uses, this seems like a pertinent way to develop local agriculture, curb our exposure to volatile costs, and of course increase the farmers’ income.
Photo © Danone Ecosystem Fund