Manneken Pis will dress as a West African cattle herder on Saturday and urinate real milk as part of an effort by the Belgian NGO, Vétérinaires sans frontières, to draw attention to West Africa’s dairy producers. The iconic statue in central Brussels will urinate milk instead of water throughout the day on Saturday 1 June, World Milk Day.
Milk is an important source of income for West African herders, according to the NGO, which stressed that 60% of the region’s population lives off livestock farming and agriculture. Animals such as cows and goats provide milk, manure and income, it noted.
“Milk is one of the rare sources of protein for needy families in the African countryside,” said Josti Gadeyne, spokesperson of the organisation. “A lack of milk brings about malnutrition. Milk therefore plays an essential role in the fight against famine and poverty. In dry and arid zones, livestock rearing is often the only means of survival.”
While a Belgian cow produces on average 25 to 35 litres of milk a day, an African cow produces 2 to 3 litres in the best of cases. In the dry season, they even produce less than 1 litre because of the shortage of water, grass and care for the animals.
“The little milk West Africa’s farmers can sell earns them next to nothing,” Ms Gadeyne said.
“European surplus milk floods and disturbs the local market,” she explained. “It’s not even real milk, but skim milk in powder form, enriched with everything except sustainable palm oil. This milk is three times cheaper than that of local producers. If the European Union continues to get rid of its milk surpluses in Africa, it will drive local producers further into poverty.”