Ghee-making in the cattle corridor of Uganda
In sub-Saharan Africa, women in smallholder dairy operations carry a disproportionate labor burden, especially in making traditional fermented milk products like ghee. There is a clear need to improve the production processes, not only to decrease the labor burden, but also to increase quantity and enhance quality. The objective of this study was to document the current butter/ghee-making practice and to identify priority areas that need attention. Women groups engaged in traditional butter/ghee production were identified from the cattle corridor of Uganda. The five study locations were: Ngoma village/town in Nakaseke district, Nyamilinga and Kabuye villages in Kiboga district, Kanyaryeru village in Kiruhura district and Kotido in Kotido district. The women demonstrated the processes and were engaged in focus groups to better understand details that were not adequately covered during the demonstrations. The demonstrations were video-taped for future reference. Butter is made from the milk of a cow that has been lactating for at least one month. Milk and/or cream are allowed to ferment for up to 12 hours and butter is separated by churning in a gourd. The butter/ghee-making practices in the cattle corridor of Uganda differ in how the milk is handled before churning to separate the butterfat. The study revealed that butter/ghee-making is an effective way to reduce losses when farmers cannot sell their milk. However, churning to separate butter fat is the most labor-intensive component of the overall ghee-making process; it is the bottle neck to increasing quantity without proportionately increasing the labor burden. Also, women handling large volumes complained of fatigue due to high energy required for manual churning. Women reported chest pains, especially those churning 10 liters of milk in 20-liter gourds. This posture of placing the gourd on their laps or between the legs on a cushion followed by shaking reportedly causes knee and elbow pains and as a result some women have given up churning. The study concluded that a hand-operated high capacity churning device, if developed and adopted, will not only increase farmer productivity in terms of reduced labor and/or increased incomes, but will also enhance quality and reduce churning-related health problems.
Key words: Smallholder, poverty, ghee, traditional processing, labor, fermentation, churning, productivity, Uganda