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Time to pay attention to dairy production chain

By Rading Biko | Feb 28th 2021 | 4 min read
By Rading Biko | February 28th 2021

NAIROBI, KENYA: The dairy sector plays a key role in Kenya's rural area. Majority of people living in these areas more so women and children live below a dollar mark per day.

Most rural families own a cow or two, a major source of income for them, where the milk surplus is sold directly to other members of the community depending on demand.

A recent survey by the Kenya Market Trust revealed that 86 per cent of Kenya’s milk (approximately 5.2 billion litres) is sold by unorganised, small-scale businesses in informal markets.

The dairy industry is the single largest livestock production sub-sector contributing 14 per cent of the agricultural gross domestic product (GDP) and 3.5 per cent of the total GDP.

Despite the potential, most rural smallholder farmers are still faced with lots of challenges. Transportation is one of the challenges for most of them.

According to Kenneth Wachira, General Manager, Ol’ Kalou Dairy Limited, the Nyandarua County terrain hinders most of the smallholder farmers from selling their milk produce to dairy plants.

Nevertheless, with the help of donkey owners within the county dairy farmers like Wachira’s are assured of an efficient milk transportation system.

He adds “Currently we have over 7,000 smallholder farmers spread across the county and one of the biggest challenge was transportation but we partnered with Kenya Network for Dissemination of Agricultural Technologies and crafted a model where we shall have the donkey owners collect the milk produce on our behalf and then deliver it to our main factory and other collections point.”

According to Martin Mwiti, Community Development Officer with Kenya Network for Dissemination of Agricultural Technologies in Nyandarua County, the new model has actually created an income-generating activity for donkey owners within the county.

“The donkey owners form between 15-20 per cent of the milk transporters for the company and this has lifted the lives of both the smallholder farmers and donkey owners,” comments Martin.

Mary Muthoni is one of those whose life has changed since she started owning a donkey in the County.

“Life was difficult for most of us here in Nyandarua but when I started owning a donkey things have really changed and today I have two donkeys which are the main source of income. Started off transporting 40 litres of milk a day but to date, I am doing 150 - 200 litres of milk per day from different farmers. On a monthly basis I make between Sh10,000 - Sh15,000, which caters for the family bills,” comments Muthoni.

Also among those who have benefitted from the initiative is Ezekiel Kang’ethe, Secretary-General of Rurii Area - Ol’ Kalou Dairy Transporters Association.

“In 2011, I started off with three donkeys where I used to transport 100 - 150 litres of milk a day; this enabled me to earn a decent living. The milk transportation business has enabled me to purchase a motorbike that I have included in the business hence I have now employed someone to continue transporting milk using the donkey while I use the motorbike. On a daily basis, I transport between 400 - 500 litres of milk while the donkey does 150 - 180 litres of milk,” says Kang’ethe.

He says his monthly income ranges between Sh30,000 - Sh40,000.

Threats to smallholder farmers
According to FAO , smallholder dairy production will only be able to reach its full potential if some of the threats and challenges the sector is currently facing are addressed. In many developing countries, smallholders lack the skills to manage their farms as ‘enterprises'; have poor access to support services like production and marketing advice; have little or no capital to reinvest with limited access to credit; and are handicapped by small herd sizes, low milk yields and poor milk quality.
Massive policy interventions (price support, milk quotas, direct payments, investment support programmes, and export subsidies) in developed countries create a competitive advantage for the dairy sector and penalize dairy farmers in developing countries, the report noted.
 They are also affected by trade liberalization, which increasingly exposes them to competition from large-scale corporate dairy enterprises that are able to respond more rapidly to changes in the market environment.
Environmental concerns are another threat to smallholder production. Low-yield dairy systems in Africa and South Asia are estimated to have higher carbon footprints per 100 kilogram of milk produced than high-yield systems in the United States and Western Europe. This carbon footprint could be significantly reduced through improved animal feeding.
 Need for a robust value
For any dairy development strategy, the FAO/IFCN study recommends, must not exclusively focus on dairy producers but improve competitiveness throughout the entire dairy production chain, targeting farmers, input suppliers, milk traders, processors, retailers and others.

Creating value in every part of the chain ultimately also benefits consumers who are then able to obtain more dairy products for the same amount of money or need to spend less for the dairy products they consume.

Mary Muthoni after delivering  milk to Ol’ Kalou Dairy Limited using her donkey cart. [Courtesy]


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