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We have recently launched a 4.5 month phase 1 feasibility study which explores how an age-old tradition called Mombe Yehumai, can be combined with modern technology to increase women's participation in the dairy value chain in rural Zimbabwe.

Mombe Yehumai (Mother’s Cow) is a ceremonial marriage tradition in which the groom gifts his mother-in-law a cow, to thank her for raising a daughter.  In a context where women have limited income, influence and independence, Mombe Yehumai represents a remarkable opportunity for income generation if its potential can be successfully unlocked. Unfortunately many poor women currently lack the skills and support to make the most of this opportunity. With the help of ITL supporters we aim to address this.

Image credits and information i
Livestock rearing, Zimbabwe Credit: CA Zimbabwe
Livestock rearing, Zimbabwe

Phase one of the project will focus on four key areas -

  1. The potential of Mombe Yehumai: We aim to assess the potential to use Mombe Yehumai as a way to build women’s capacity to make the most of their livestock, improving productivity and reaching markets where they can secure higher prices for their products. We will map existing women’s groups, assess knowledge gaps and evaluate breeding options, exploring hardy species which can better tolerate the harsh climate, and which give higher milk yields. 
  2. Assessing barriers and solutions: Although many women in the area own livestock, this is usually only at a small-scale, household level. Numerous practical and cultural barriers prevent women from making the most of their assets to build up flourishing herds and profitable businesses. A gender action learning system (GALS) assessment will look into the most pressing barriers relevant to women across the dairy and beef value chains, and ways to overcome them.
  3. Technological solutions: Digital appraisals will explore innovative technologies that could enhance women’s capacity to manage their herds and businesses, and to access information and markets. Options include  basic computers such as Raspberry Pi, business software such as Biztrack, and WhatsApp chatbots accessed via mobile phones. Together, these tools could enable women to track cow health, nutrition, fertility and milk yield, log income and expenditure, manage orders and sales, promote their products and monitor market prices.
  4. Exploring products and markets: Market evaluations will focus on supply and demand for core products such as milk, and will also explore related business opportunities across the value chain. This will include climate-resilient animal feed, considering opportunities such as bush meal and spineless cactus.

This work will ensure that, if we move to phase 2, the project is built on the strongest possible foundations. 

The design of phase 2 will be built on the outputs from the first phase, but will undoubtedly focus on-

  • Increased participation of women at all levels of the dairy and beef value chains
  • Ensuring women have the knowledge and skills to grow their herds, and to protect their cattle from drought and disease
  • Ensuring women are empowered to build businesses that boost their earnings and status
  • Improved household nutrition and income all year round
  • Ensuring families have greater security and resilience through periods of drought and crisis
  • Building community prosperity and resilience through a local eco-system of complementary, women-led businesses .

Project Factsheet

ITL Dairy Value Chain Project, Zimbabwe

Find our more about our new ITL project in Zimbabwe.