SBN Pakistan kicks off its Access to Better Dairy Project

The SUN Business Network in Pakistan has kicked off the Greening and Scaling “GAIN Access to Better Dairy” project as part of the efforts being made to address the issues of malnutrition in Pakistan, in collaboration with the government, and other partners. The ‘GAIN Access to Better Dairy’ Project was launched in 2021 as a market-based approach to convert near waste of whey water into a value-added affordable whey-based drink. The product is based on an initial prototype through a collaboration between Dairyland (Pakistan), Arla Foods Ingredients (Denmark), Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (Switzerland) and SUN Business Network (Pakistan), building on concepts from earlier experience from Arla Food Ingredients.

The 4-year Project funded by DANIDA (Danish International Development Agency), which started in Ethiopia in 2017 and extended for two more years not only in Ethiopia but also in two other countries i.e., Tanzania and Pakistan. The project has two main objectives; increase the acceptability and availability of affordable, safe and nutritious milk-based products targeting children and women that will improve nutrition status and to catalyse the market development of the dairy value chain, which will increase profitability for small holder farmers, local processors and other value chain actors creating more regular supply of milk for low-income consumers, in line with SDG8.

For Pakistan, the Greening and Scaling component emphasises on conversion of the by- product of the dairy process, which have potential use as raw material for healthy and nutritious food products fit for human consumption. Linkages between the local and global SBN members will thus be organised to agree on a feasible solution, through collaborative efforts, to achieve the Project objectives.

The pilot phase of the Project saw the conversion of 10,000 litres/day of this near waste whey water into a healthy and nutritious drink as a substitute of unhealthy drinks at an affordable price, as a way to address the Country’s malnutrition concerns, with a shelf life determined as 3months. Whey is a by-product from cheese production, which is often wasted. The decision to use the near waste of whey water stems from the discovery that it contains valuable nutrients and is an affordable raw material which can be repurposed into nutritious drinks.

In June 2022, the SUN Business Network and GAIN team held a stakeholders’ meeting in Islamabad, Pakistan with representatives from Ministry of National Food Security & Research (MoNFSR), Ministry of National Health Services Regulations and Coordination (MoNHSR), Ministry of Planning, Development & Special Initiatives (MoPDSI), Provincial SUN Units, Livestock and Dairy Department, Provincial Food Authorities (PFAs), Academia/Universities, National Agricultural Research Centre (NARC), UNICEF, WFP, Private sector (SBN Members), other SUN Networks and GAIN staff in attendance. The objective of the convening was to get more insights on the Project concept, fortification levels, scaling and greening aspect, and other relevant channels for distribution.

At the convening, it was concluded that the local dairy companies are the key actors in implementing this Project and thus needed to be proactively come onboard as implementing partners, and that the priorities for implementation of the Project should include leveraging on the resources and technical support of global partners, while also accessing policies and programmes for engaging all the stakeholders throughout the Project lifecycle.

Stakeholders at the kick-off meeting weighed-in their views on the Project implementation:

Dr. Amer Mumtaz from NARC recommended strengthening the collaboration between research institutes, academia, relevant public departments, and private dairy industry through the SBN platform to chalk out a well thought out workplan to proceed further. He also suggested to consider the temperature variation in Pakistan in various season for preparation and storage of the drink, while putting into consideration the salt/sugar content of the drink in a bid to make it healthier.   

According to Dr. Naureen from UNICEF, “the product should not be promoted as converted from wastes, because people don’t like to consume waste”. She suggested to promote the product as a healthy and nutritious drink which can pass a substitute for fizzy drinks/unhealthy juices.

Tannaza Sadaf, Portfolio Lead – GAIN Pakistan, shared that while working with different stakeholders on the scaling the Project, the team identified the environmental pathways and mitigation actions at the start of the Project by applying the GAIN environmental assessment tool to strengthen the value for the Project which can then serve as a pioneer for other Projects, as this will further strengthen the Project sustainable business case, narrative and the communication. 

Ms Farrah Naz, the GAIN Country Director, expressed GAIN’s willingness to work with dairy companies in Pakistan to ensure the success of the Project in Pakistan, while thanking the stakeholders for their valuable inputs.

Ms. Charlotte Pedersen, Senior Advisor (Nature Positive Actions for Healthy Diets) at GAIN introduced the previous successful experience around co-creation of solutions by partners with very different knowledge and expertise. This is needed to be able to design solutions that are safe, nutritious, affordable, and tasty.

The GAIN Access to Better Dairy Project in Pakistan offers a great chance at promoting GAIN’s values of going green, and making safe nutritious food more accessible, affordable, and available.