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Community inclusion: enhancing the resilience of dairy producers in southern Jordan

Livestock are a mainstay of production systems in the dry areas of the world, providing resilience to rural communities and an important source of income through the sale of added-value products such as wool, milk, cheese, and yoghurt Added value can also be achieved through the fattening of lambs and higher quality meat.

   

Targeted interventions with the potential to improve the efficiency of production value chains can reinforce these benefits – helping to consolidate the diversification of production systems, a crucial means of strengthening resilience, and driving even higher profits.

 

Contemplating the most appropriate interventions in a given community or farming system raises a series of important questions for researchers and development practitioners: what interventions should be taken, and where should they be implemented? Who should be targeted, and why? What are the needs and requirements of the communities in question? Where are the value-chain bottlenecks undermining the efficiency of production systems, and how should they be removed?

 

Participatory approaches are widely recognized as beneficial – empowering communities, gaining their trust, and by placing beneficiaries at the center of planning and strategy development efforts, promoting community ownership, and ultimately ensuring that interventions reflect local needs.

 

This strategy was recently applied in Karak, southern Jordan, through an IFAD-funded initiative that strengthens barley-livestock production systems and mitigates the impacts of climate change in Iraq and Jordan. The region is well known in Jordan for the production of dairy products, including Jameed – a type of traditional dried yoghurt that forms a core part of the Jordanian diet and is the basis of the national dish, Mansaf

        

One of the Project’s aims is to enhance the processing of dairy products in targeted rural communities, delivering technologies to enhance milk production, processing, and product quality. Value addition helps to market products more effectively, boost production, and ultimately, raise incomes – thereby strengthening resilience. 

       

ICARDA researchers, alongside their colleagues at Jordan’s National Center for Agriculture Research and Extension (NCARE), conducted Rural Rapid Appraisals (RRAs), focus groups, and interviews with key informants in four communities – crucial information that would help researchers to better understand conditions, constraints, and ultimately the technological, institutional, and marketing interventions required to enhance livelihoods.

 

What did this reveal? It revealed relatively small communities of between 4500 and 9000 people; a region characterized by erratic rainfall and degraded pastoral land; farmers subjected to high prices for agricultural inputs and limited access to credit; a workforce that was overwhelmingly female; and dairy products that required improvements in terms of quality and marketing.

 

This detailed participatory analysis helped to crystallize thinking about the recommendations needed to raise the transformative potential of dairy production: technological inputs required by producers; efforts to involve target beneficiaries in problem identification and the development of solutions; encouraging NCARE to partner with government and non-government organizations to out-scale technologies and target women; and conducting further analyses to identify the quality attributes of different dairy products and achieving these attributes as a means to secure premium prices for women producers.

 

The participatory approach improved the confidence and involvement of beneficiaries, helping to achieve high adoption rates for the technologies introduced to targeted communities. While a project can introduce new and proven technologies that address important production constraints among rural communities, its success in terms of achieving high adoption rates for new technologies depends on whether the technologies were tested and adapted to local conditions with the full involvement of beneficiaries. 

 

In Karak, introduced technologies shortened processing hours and reduced production-related energy costs by as much as 75%, while improving the microbial and yeast growth qualities of Jameed balls for longer shelf life. Furthermore, by using a milk fat separator, producers are now able to work with an almost fat-free yogurt that can be directly concentrated without churning – a subsequent cost-benefit analysis revealed that this particular intervention generated at least 60% savings on energy, water, and labor costs.

 

Furthermore, the milk fat separator improved the quality of Jameed produced, which in turn generated higher price premiums, conservatively estimated at 5%. The combined effect of the cost savings and additional revenue increased overall profits by at least 20%. 

 

Training activities initially identified by the communities themselves were subsequently developed to improve both hygienic conditions and the processing of Jameed. Pasteurization and heat treatment were introduced to further enhance Jameed quality, while improved techniques helped processors to control mold and yeast growth during the drying process.

 

Given these successes, ICARDA and NCARE are now exploring ways to out-scale these interventions through the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems to ensure that the benefits generated in Karak are extended to help other rural communities – in Jordan, and elsewhere.