There?s an old adage that says, ?Don?t cry over split milk.?  Nevertheless, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization says economic losses from spilt and spoiled milk in East Africa and the Near East average 90-million dollars a year. 


The FAO has conducted the first-ever analyses of economic losses in Africa?s dairy sector.  It?s initially concentrating on Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Ethiopia on the continent, as well as Syria.


Anthony Bennett of the agency?s Animal Production and Health Division is the coordinator of the project.


He says, "The biggest loss actually occurs at the smallholder farmer level.  We?ve quantified losses and we?ve basically found that the biggest losses are occurring at the farm level.  The second highest loss area is milk preservation, collection, transportation. And the third is in the processing."


He says milk production can play a big role strengthening household security and reducing poverty.  It?s estimated that for every 100 of liters of milk produced locally in East Africa, up to five jobs are created in related industries.


Mr. Bennett says, "Small-scale farmers depend on milk for a lot of their income. We?re talking about farmers who typically have one, two or three milking animals.  Those farmers, they depend on milk to survive.  They depend on milk to pay their education fees for their children.  They depend on milk to pay for basic health care services.  If they?re losing a lot of money, and they are losing a lot of money, this means that their income is being reduced."


The Food and Agriculture Organization has launched a three-year project to reduce milk losses.  The first step was to consult with farmers, national dairy boards, government officials, industry representatives and others.


"Our stakeholders identified three key areas where we need to take action.  The first one is technology transfer.  The second is training.  And the third is provision of information, " Mr. Bennett says.


The FAO is providing training for small groups of farmers from the East African countries to reduce spillage and spoilage and increase productivity.  For example, showing them how to keep milk cooler to keep it fresh longer.  Or teaching new techniques to produce more cheese.


The FAO estimates the demand for milk in the developing world will double by 2030.  It says helping small-scale farmers increase milk production could reduce milk imports, which grew by more than 40 percent between 1998 and 2001.