Dr. Silvia in Senegal

Cooperatives around the world operate according to the same set of core principles and values. In 2017, our in-house animal nutritionist Dr. Silvia Abel-Caines, spent two weeks on an inspiring, boots-on-the-ground example of Principle 6: Cooperation Among Cooperatives.

Dr. Silvia’s mission consisted of volunteering her expertise to the Dental Hayre women’s cooperative in the West African nation of Senegal. The training was organized by the National Cooperative Business Association, CLUSA International[i] through its Farmer-to-Farmer program.

“The time I spent in rural Senegal was life-transforming,” Dr. Silvia says. “I saw with my own eyes the power of how small co-ops can enrich a community by providing food and additional income to people with little access to training due to gender, religion or education.”

The women’s goal was to make dairy products from their animals’ milk that is nutritious and easy to make and could be sold locally with minimum investment. Dr. Silvia immediately thought of introducing the group to kefir, a highly nutritious probiotic dairy beverage. She brought kefir cultures generously donated by Philip and Linda Johnson, Organic Valley Grassmilk farmers from Barron, Wisconsin.

There were challenges along the way, like finding adequate glass containers to ferment the milk in and teaching them how to sanitize the milk collected from various households. They learned how to make butter and farmer cheese, and Dr. Silvia taught them how to use milk to make skin treatment and beauty products.

These women hope to market their kefir to surrounding villages and have a permanent presence at their weekly farmers market. They are looking forward to continuing this project and welcome the opportunity to partner with other organizations to help them reach their dream to transform their milk into something nutritious and marketable.

[i] CROPP Cooperative is a member of the  National Cooperative Business Association, CLUSA International

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