Building Rural Income through Inclusive Dairy Growth in Ethiopia (BRIDGE)

The BRIDGE project aims to contribute to sector transformation, while improving the livelihoods of 90.000+ dairy farmers. The project is implemented by SNV Ethiopia and Wageningen UR and builds on the experience of EDGET (SNV) and DairyBISS (WUR) projects implemented from 2013-2018.

Wageningen UR’s role in BRIDGE can be characterized as action research in support to the project, and consists of the following elements:

  1. Co-develop new project approaches & activities
  2. Assess effectiveness of project approaches & activities
  3. Develop recommendations for extension
  4. Use evidence from project implementation for sector debates
  5. Train & coach project staff and partners
  6. Publish lessons learned

These activities are carried out by a Research & Innovation Unit in Addis Abeba supported by Wageningen University & Research staff.

Ethiopia’s economic development and population growth has created a growing demand for quality food products such as milk and dairy products. Smallholder farms produce the vast majority (98%) of milk in Ethiopia, and this is currently not meeting the growing demand of the consumers. BRIDGE aims to improve the livelihoods of smallholder and commercial dairy farmers, while contributing to dairy sector transformation, facilitating market linkages and improving the functioning of dairy value chain actors, thereby enhancing the production of accessible, affordable, quality, nutritious and safe dairy products.

The dairy sector in Ethiopia

Although Ethiopiahas the largest cattle population in Africa, it only has very few dairy specific breeds and in general, milk production per cow is very low. Most of the milk is produced in small-scale production systems, where milk is mostly consumed at home (subsistence), marketed locally, or processed into local butter, cheese or fermented milk. Due to the growing demand for and investments in processing of dairy, the formal dairy value chain has steadily expanded by about 10% per annum and between 2020 and 2021 it even expanded by 60%. The formal chain represents only a limited part of the dairy sector (~5-9%) as most of the liquid milk is marketed informally or is collected by traders and sold to consumers in milk shops and to large customers, such as institutions, schools, restaurants and hotels. Raw milk mostly sells at the same price as pasteurized milk, indicating the fierce competition between the formal and informal sector and the nutritional unawareness of customers. The Ethiopian dairy sector is characterized by fragmentation, the delivery of unsafe milk products and high prices (with an increase of almost 50% over the past 2 years). Additionally, large fluctuations occur in demand and supply of milk, due to a seasonal lack of animal feed and several fasting periods in the Orthodox church.

Ethiopian dairy farmers


BRIDGE aims to improve wellbeing for dairy farmers as well as the overall performance of the dairy sector in Ethiopia. It does so by supporting over 90,000 farming households with the commercialization process, and helping them to increase overall farm productivity. BRIDGE contributes to sector transformation by strengthening input and output markets and institutions.

The impact of BRIDGE can be described by four main outcomes:

  1. Improved milk production
  2. Improved dairy markets (in- and output)
  3. Improved consumption of safe and nutritious dairy products
  4. Improved enabling environment.

Strengthening the dairy value chain

BRIDGE follows an adaptive management approach, learning from experience and adjusting its approach accordingly. In order to realize the objectives that BRIDGE set, it partners with various private actors, local and international NGOs, research institutes and Ethiopian government institutions. These partnerships are essential to strengthen the links between key dairy value chain actors:

1. Inputs

BRIDGE is linking input suppliers to farmers, by supporting agro-input dealers to improve their outreach activities and the diversify their products and services.

2. Production

BRIDGE supports the public extension system through establishment of an informal dairy farmer extension group structure (DFEG). Through practical trainings and demonstrations on DFEG level, an increased adoption rate of improved dairy farming practices by smallholders is envisioned.

3. Bulking

BRIDGE is supporting farmers in access to output markets by linking farmers to dairy cooperatives. BRIDGE strengthens the role of dairy cooperatives in the value chain, by incentivizing cooperative to sell their milk to processors and increasing their membership base.

4. Processing and marketing

BRIDGE is linking cooperatives to processors through a market linkage approach, while improving the safety and quality of their milk supply, in tandem with strengthening regulation on milk safety. Part of BRIDGE’s food safety approach is the development of the cold chain. In partnership with Yoba for life foundation, BRIDGE aims to expand the market of pro-biotic yoghurt market by supporting smallholder yoghurt producers.