Better farming with lease cows in Zimbabwe

Trioliet is supporting families in ZImbabwe with micro-financing for cows

What can we do to help cattle farming in Africa? This was the thinking behind the creation of Farm Friends, a foundation that helps local farmers in ZImbabwe, Ethiopia and Tanzania to set up their own dairy farms. When Trioliet heard about this initiative and saw how dedicated the founders were, a partnership was formed. 

Trioliet and the Farm Friends Foundation are going to work together on the "Cow Lease" project to improve the lives of cattle farmers in Zimbabwe. By financing the cows, which are then paid off in instalments by the Zimbabwean farmers, the two organizations hope to boost the economic position of African families. 

Providing help directly with as little red tape as possible

The Farm Friends Foundation consists of a number of private individuals who have a strong affinity to cattle farming. Piet Bijman, Chairman of the Farm Friends Foundation, is an expert in both areas of cattle farming and development work. As a farmer's son from North Holland and lecturer at the livestock farming vocational college in Friesland, he was asked to provide training in East Africa. He worked in Kenya for many years, for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. "Together with someone I met who had also worked in East Africa, I wanted to help people in Africa build a better life. This is how Farm Friends was founded," says Bijman. The Foundation grew to become a textbook example of how development work should work, offering help directly, based on the needs of the local population, with as little red tape as possible.

"Don't give them a fish; give them a rod and teach them how to fish."

Lease a cow

Over the last ten years, Farm Friends has achieved great success in Tanzania and Ethiopia with the "Lease a Cow" phenomenon. Small-scale cattle farms can borrow money for a cow in calf which is provided by the foundation. With the proceeds from the milk, the loans are paid back, and more. Once repaid, part of the loan goes to the cooperative (management costs) and another part goes to a fund whose proceeds are used to buy new cows. The cattle farms in Africa consist mainly of families with 1 or 2 cows and unlike here, it is the women who run the farm. The Farm Friends Foundation provides experience and expertise in cattle farming to the local farmers and, for example, will give them tips on how to achieve higher milk production. Bijman: "You really help them by giving them advice on how to become self-sufficient. That is far more constructive than just giving them money. Don't give them a fish; give them a rod and teach them how to fish."

A few thousand farmers have now been helped in Tanzania and Ethiopia. They are self-sufficient and no longer need help from Farm Friends. Mission accomplished, and just begging to be repeated in other countries. To qualify for a Farm Friends project, the political situation in the country first needs to be stable. In addition, a dairy factory and a breeding farm already needs to be in place. Only when a country meets these requirements will a project have a chance to succeed. The foundation also looks at the farmer's personal situation. Bijman: "The cattle must be well-fed, for example. Most farmers grow their own fodder. Farm Friends offers advice on feeding and how farms can achieve better milk production. The shelter for the cattle must also be in good condition." 

In Ethiopia, Farm Friends has set up a successful cooperative involving over a hundred lease cows. The cows were inseminated there with Holstein bulls of Frisian origin, which ultimately resulted in a stronger breed with good milk production. Due to the current unrest in Ethiopia, Farm Friends has decided to withdraw from the country for the time being.  In the meantime, it has focused on another African country, namely Zimbabwe. Although the way of thinking remains the same, Farm Friends has chosen to change the way things are done in this country for a number of reasons. This time, Farm Friends decided not to set up its own organisation to which money could be transferred, but instead established a partnership with the Dairibord milk factory in Harare. Farm Friends has developed the "Cow-2-Cow" programme specially for Zimbabwe. With this unique programme, small-scale farmers receive young cows in calf that they pay for through milk in three years on average. The first families in Zimbabwe have now received assistance.

"Helping to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor"

Social responsibility

Trioliet supports the project in ZImbabwe and donates an annual financial contribution to the Farm Friends Foundation. Robert Liet: "We fully support this initiative to give the local economy a boost and at the same time help families to generate income." We can really pass on our knowledge about feeding in this fantastic, transparent project." Farm Friends, in turn, is obviously delighted with the financial support from the business community. Bijman: "We are absolutely delighted with Trioliet's involvement. It is so great to see a commercial organization assume its social responsibilities. After all, who doesn't want to help bridge the gap between rich and poor in the world? Who could possibly object to that?"

If you have any questions about this project or would like to know more, please contact and fill in the contact form.