Ethiopia: How fortified yoghurt could help alleviate hunger

With the world’s fourth largest cattle population, Ethiopia is home to 11 million dairy cows. Yet few of the country’s inhabitants are nourished by milk. At the same time, 40% of Ethiopia’s children suffer from growth stunting as a result of chronic malnutrition.

There is a general consensus among physicians that toddlers should consume two to three servings of milk or other dairy products each day.

Developing the dairy infrastructure in Ethiopia

In a country rich with dairy cows, how can Ethiopia utilise these resources and deliver much-needed nutrients to the families of under-nourished children?

To address this gap and improve childhood nutrition, a Danish-Ethiopian collaboration is developing a safe, fortified, and locally produced yoghurt that is also affordable for low-income families.

The benefits include better nutrition, more secure markets for smallholder dairy farmers, job growth in rural areas, and potential expansion for dairy processors.

The challenges are also considerable, mainly when it comes to logistics. Ethiopia’s rudimentary infrastructure means that getting the milk from those 11 million cows and equipping the necessary dairies is by no means easy.

“Dairy value chains are not at all developed in Ethiopia,” said Charlotte Sørensen, Business Development Manager at Arla Foods Ingredients, which is developing the yoghurt recipe for production in Ethiopia. “Dairy today is a high-priced product, so not suitable at all for low-income families.”

Photographer: Mathilde Berg Utzon, working for the NGO DanChurchAid


Learning lessons from WWII-era Japan

Times of malnutrition and undernourishment have been known to trigger a change in eating habits. For example, Japan’s diet and the Japanese people’s preference for certain kinds of food altered significantly after World War II and its associated famine. The depletion of food stocks meant that Japan needed to stock their pantries from elsewhere, namely US food aid. An unintended consequence was a preferential shift from carbohydrate-based diets to those that are rich in protein.


Ensuring great taste and nutrition

In Ethiopia, pilot tests of the preliminary yoghurt recipe have had promising results. One important element to maximise the dairies’ yoghurt production and secure good taste and texture is the inclusion of Arla Foods Ingredients’ whey permeate, which is rich in milk minerals and lactose. The yoghurt’s nutritional content will be further boosted by the addition of more vitamins and minerals. Milk products contain significant amounts of protein, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, zinc, and vitamin K, which are essential for building strong bones during childhood, according to the European Commission. Vitamin D, also necessary for developing and maintaining normal bones, is a common ingredient in fortified dairy products.

If all goes according to plan, the life-changing yoghurt will be on the market by 2019 – and at a price families can afford.

Hear from the collaborators themselves in this video from DanChurchAid

You can learn more about our commitment to food availability and nutrition here.


Support for this initiative is led by… 

At the helm of this three-year project is the GAIN Nordic Partnership, with Arla Foods Ingredients as lead business partner. Financial support is provided by Denmark’s development cooperation agency, Danida, in close cooperation with NGO DanChurchAid. In addition, the Confederation of Danish Industry is assisting with the project’s business model.