Rural Women Economic Empowerment, Indigenous Fermented Milk Production, and the Challenges of Modernity
Traditionally, women are known as producers of fermented milk in manyAfrican communities. In more recent times, the production of fermented milkusing indigenous technology is more widely practiced by women in rural areas.In rendering support to small and medium-scale industries, many Africangovernments, NGOs, and the private sector strongly encourage the use ofcommercial starter culture in milk fermentation, while some go as far asdiscouraging or withholding support for traditional fermentation. Most womenin rural areas across Africa are unable to afford commercial starter cultures or donot have the knowledge and other required resources to use them. Yet,traditionally fermented milk holds prospects as a means of economicempowerment for rural women. This study examines the challenges andopportunities for women who live in rural areas of Rwanda and use indigenousknowledge and technology in their milk fermentation process. The study seeksto enhance the understanding of traditional fermentation techniques and thepossibilities they hold for the economic empowerment of women in ruralRwanda. In this pursuit, emphasis is placed on the cost of production in terms offinances, ease of access to raw materials, and ease and speed of production, inaddition to other production dynamics, including hygiene. Further, the researchexplores the health and nutritional benefits of traditional fermentation methods,as well as possible side effects. Finally, the shelf life and taste of traditionalprocessing methods are explored alongside modern fermented milk (usingstarter culture), all with a view to determining how much benefits accrue to onemore than the other.
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