Improving handling practices and microbiological safety of milk and milk products in Borana pastoral communities, Ethiopia


The goal of this project is to improve handling practices of milk and dairy products and thus improve food safety for pastoralists in Borana, Ethiopia.


Borana is a pastoral area in southern Ethiopia where milk is a common food. A recent study involving participatory qualitative investigation on the topic focused on four village administrations of the Yabello district in the Borana zone. Microbiological assessment was carried out along different levels of milk value chain, focusing on counts of E. coli and other selected pathogens.

The observation of milk handling and processing practices revealed apparent unhygienic conditions, and high pathogen loads. Pastoral women considered proper smoking of containers and utensils, using various plant species, as an important traditional practice for assuring the quality and safety of milk and dairy products. Other reasons for smoking of containers were increased shelf life of products, good consistency of curdled milk, pleasing flavour and health benefits. 

Project objectives

  1. Assess the effect of using stainless steel milk storage containers and smoking of containers on the microbial quality and shelf-life of milk and yoghurt.
  2. Assess the knowledge, attitude and practices of women with regard to milk consumption and handling, and the associated health risks focusing on microbial pathogens (before and after giving training on good milk production practices).
  3. Generate evidence on the prevalence of foodborne bacterial pathogens circulating in milk and milking environments in pastoral and agro-pastoral areas of Ethiopia focusing on E. coli O157:H7, Staphylococcus aureus and zoonotic Salmonella spp.
  4. Assess the suitability of aluminium containers for preparation of traditional yoghurt in terms of the amount of aluminium metal leached into yoghurt and determine the level of aluminium metal residue in the product for potential health risks.

Expected outcomes

  1. Validation and improved traditional milk handling and processing technologies in pastoral areas using a rigorous scientific approach.
  2. Recommendations for improving small-scale milk processing in pastoral areas.
  3. Participating pastoralists to improve their milk handling procedure, which can contribute to family health and increase food security.
  4. Capacity and capability strengthened, including training at master’s level.
  5. Strong partnership among multi-stakeholders in the pastoral areas.