Agriculture / ASSP / Dairying / DFATD / East Africa / Ethiopia / Gender / ILRI / LIVES / Livestock / Oromia / Women

Traditional butter churn beats modern alternative in Ejere, Ethiopia

Traditonal and modern churn set side by side (Phtoe:ILRI\Solomon Gizaw)

Traditional and modern churn set side by side for trial in Ejere district (Photo credit ILRI\Solomon Gizaw)

One should not make the mistake of thinking that ‘traditional’ is synonymous with backward. While traditional methods of agricultural production and processing may have to be modernized through introduction of more up-to-date technologies, these modern technologies need to be better than traditional ones to be adopted by farmers. A case in point is the use of the traditional butter churn in Ethiopia.

Debritu and Jigi, women dairy farmers in Ejere District, Ethiopia, comparatively evaluated a traditional and modern butter churn with facilitation by the Livestock and Irrigation Value Chains for Ethiopian Smallholders  (LIVES) project along the lines of a similar test, in Sidama zone

In the test, Debritu used the traditional pot butter churner, a technology which has been passed on from her foremothers. Jigi on the other hand was using a modern plastic churn with a stainless agitator and a gear system that multiplies churning force.

Sometimes, the traditional method beats the modern one! Debritu churned out 260 grams of butter in 20 minutes, whereas Jigi took 65 minutes to churn 200 grams of butter. In the second round Jigi adopted part of the traditional technology, i.e. a pre-churning stirring of the sour milk using a stick with a three-pronged end. In this round, Debritu and Jigi finished in 32 and 21 minutes with a butter yield of 400 and 230 grams, respectively.

Debritu and Jigi churning milk by the two types of churners_Ejere (Phtoe:ILRI\Solomon Gizaw)

Debritu and Jigi churning milk using the two types of churners (photo credit:ILRI\Solomon Gizaw).

This story is from an action research activity conducted to evaluate a modern butter churn as an alternative to the traditional pot churner with the objective of easing rural women’s labour.

Findings from this observation show that technologies need to be evaluated for their technical efficiency and socioeconomic feasibility before they are promoted for adoption by agricultural producers. The search for an efficient butter churn (including modifying the modern churn evaluated here) that could be affordable and acceptable by farmers like Debritu and Jigi continues.

Watch video that shows Debritu and Jigi churning their milk!


Written by Solomon Gizaw and Dirk Hoekstra.

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