Protecting an Ancient Way of Life in the Sahara

IFC’s investment in Tiviski Dairy will support more than 2,000 livestock herders from across the Mauritania Sahara. © EC/ECHO/Anouk Delafortrie

Nomadic pastoralism remains an essential part of life in the Sahel, a vast semi-arid region in North Africa where more than 60 percent of the population is involved in livestock farming. Nowhere is this ancient way of life more vibrant than in the desert nation of Mauritania. There, pastoralists dressed in long robes guide their cattle, camels, and goats across the golden sand of the Sahara.

Moving past weather-battered villages and brightly patterned tents, these herdsmen are protecting a centuries-old tradition—but one that is under threat from severe drought, rising poverty, and rural-to-urban migration.

A new investment in Tiviski Dairy, the largest employer in the dairy sector in Mauritania, is poised to offer the country’s pastoralist community new opportunities for income that will allow them to maintain their way of life while providing for their families. The investment—a $9.5 million blended-finance solution from IFC and the Private Sector Window of the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP), which IFC manages—will help Tiviski modernize, diversify, and expand its milk production. This is expected to have a strong development impact across the dairy value chain in Mauritania.

GAFSP funding is co-invested alongside IFC funding. This joint investment will help meet robust domestic demand for dairy, position Tiviski as the market leader in fresh pasteurized milk, and create export potential for niche camel-milk powder products. More than 2,000 livestock herders from across the Mauritania Sahara, 15 percent of whom are women, will supply milk to Tiviski through this new investment—IFC’s second in the company. Tiviski will generate an additional 200 jobs through the expansion, and help ensure food safety through the provision of pasteurized milk.


Fresh Opportunities in a Time of Climate Change

Tiviski means “spring” in local Arabic—and the significance of this company to this region of locally-sourced and produced milk can’t be underestimated. Before Tiviski started operation, fresh milk was not marketed at all in Mauritania, except for a few thousand liters sold raw by herders to small-scale milk retailers who lived near cities.

Furthermore, the effects of climate change on the Sahel made any prospects for local production unlikely before this investment. Opportunities in farming and agriculture in the Sahel are rapidly drying up as pastoralists compete among each other for dwindling water, vegetation, and pasture.

For centuries, nomads across the Sahel—which borders parts of Chad, Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger, among others—have moved hundreds of miles to find pasture to feed their herds. But in recent decades, a string of severe droughts has led to severe poverty and food insecurity among these nomadic communities. A shrinking supply of water has led to the widespread death of cattle and stillbirths of calves. Reduced milk production followed.


An Investment that Nourishes a Region

The investment in Tiviski Dairy means that some of the hardships imposed by climate change on the pastoralist community in Mauritania will be eased. Because community members will have the chance to increase their income through direct sales to the company, many will be able to maintain their way of life.

Taking a chance on projects like this—opportunities that other commercial investors have declined—is the mission of GAFSP’s Private Sector Window. GAFSP is a multilateral mechanism to assist in the implementation of pledges made by the global community to support country-led investment plans in agriculture and food security. The program is composed of two windows: the Public Sector Window (administered by the World Bank) and the Private Sector Window (managed by IFC). The Private Sector Window supports private initiatives to improve productivity and sustainability in agriculture and improve market access and access to finance to the agribusinesses in low-income countries.

This approach allows GAFSP to invest in early-stage or riskier projects that hold high potential for development impact and financial sustainability—like Tiviski Dairy. Advisory services build capacity by providing on-the-ground training and advice for businesses and farmers in improving productivity, strengthening standards, reducing risks, and mitigating the effects of climate change.

GAFSP is funded by donor partners including Australia, Canada, Japan, Netherlands, United Kingdom, and the United States.

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Published in June 2017


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