Research Article

Energy and water utilization in smallholder dairy farming: A milk bulking group case study in Malawi


Malawi’s dairy farming is dominated by smallholder farmers living in rural areas. The farmers practise hand-milking and have an unreliable supply of clean water. Consequently, low milk yields of generally low quality are realized. Machines can safely be used for milking cows if proper hygiene exists. Utilization of milking machines requires a steady supply of clean water, hence the need for water pumps. Milking machine and water pump operation require a steady energy supply, yet access to the national electricity grid is currently very low in rural areas. The current study assessed energy and water use among smallholder dairy farmers at Chitsanzo Milk Bulking Group in Dedza, Malawi. The study also assessed the farmers’ knowledge and interest in use of solar-powered milking machines and groundwater pumps. Data were collected using structured questionnaires, focus group discussions and key informant interviews. The study shows that most farmers spent huge amounts of time fetching water due to long distances (0.08–2 km) to water sources; hence, approximately 90% of the respondents under-watered their dairy animals. All milking was done by hand, which is time consuming and increases the chance of milk contamination. A need to research the introduction of solar-powered milking machines and groundwater water pumping was established.

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