Milk handling practices and consumption behavior among Borana pastoralists in southern Ethiopia|
Amenu, Kebede; Wieland, Barbara; Szonyi, Barbara & Grace, Delia
Background: Safety and wholesomeness of milk intended for human consumption are influenced by various
interlinked factors. However, information on what these factors are, especially in the pastoral traditional
communities of Ethiopia, is largely lacking. The objective of this study is to assess the hygienic milk production,
processing and consumption practices, and behaviors of Borana pastoralists.
Methods: The study used qualitative participatory research methods. Individual semi-structured interviews, focus
group discussions, informal discussions, and observations were carried out on (1) milk handling practices, (2)
perceptions of quality and safety of milk, including perceived criteria for good milk, (3) awareness of milk-borne
diseases, and (4) perception towards milk boiling practices. The interviews and discussions were audio recorded,
transcribed, and analyzed by identifying themes.
Results: Some risky behaviors related to milk handling and consumption were identified. These include unhygienic
conditions in handling milk and milk products, consumption behaviors such as consuming raw milk purchased
from markets, and children directly consuming milk from the udder of animals (e.g., goats). There was a very strong
reluctance to boil milk before consumption mainly because of the misconception that nutrients in the milk are
destroyed when milk is boiled and “boiled milk is dead”. On the other hand, potential risk mitigation practices were
identified such as smoking of milk containers (which may help reduce microbial growth), processing milk through
fermentation, consuming milk in boiled tea, and a recent trend towards boiling milk for babies. However, the latter
was not motivated by concern over microbial hazards but the belief that raw milk could form curds in children’s
stomach which might then suffocate them.
Conclusion: The findings highlight the need to promote hygienic handling practices of milk and closely engage
with local communities to improve their understanding of milk safety to facilitate change in practices. Educating
pastoralists on good milk production practices should be given priority. One of the ways to do this could be by
strengthening the integration of milk hygiene in research and development programs as an entry point for
behavioral change towards the safe handling and consumption of milk and milk products.
Milk consumption; Milk boiling; Milk container smoking; Disease perception; Safe milk; Milk hygiene