Donkey owners find profit in region’s bad roads

By NIKKO TANUI

KERICHO COUNTY: Though Kipkelion East and West constituencies are arguably the breadbaskets of Kericho County, the roads are in a poor state and are a nightmare for farmers, particularly those who make a living by selling perishable goods like milk.

For dairy farmers, a reliable transport system is essential to get their milk to Kipkelion Dairy, where it is chilled before being transported to milk processing and packaging factories in Nairobi.

Enterprising youth in the region have found a way to make money by resolving farmers’ transport issues.

At dawn, Mr Alfred Kirui, 26, wakes up, untethers his five donkeys and goes round collecting fresh milk from around 120 homesteads around Kipkelion West.

After this, he begins a five-hour trip to transport 400 litres of milk to Kipkelion Dairy.

The father of one says he got into the transport business in 2005 after a lack of school fees killed any chances of his getting into secondary school.

“After dropping out of school, I began thinking of ways to make ends meet. I realised that farmers were struggling to transport their milk, especially during the wet season when the roads are virtually impassable. I thought there would be an opportunity in easing the process of getting milk to the dairy,” he says.

Armed with the Sh10,000 he had saved up over time, he started looking for donkeys on sale and soon returned home with two animals.

Mr Kirui immediately got them to work, and says he now earns Sh20,000 to Sh30,000 a month from his milk transport business. With his earnings, he has bought two cows and is saving up to buy a pick up.

He, however, admits that the business is not for the fainthearted as the rough terrain and sometimes muddy conditions occasion a donkey or two to fall, and the owner has to get the burdened animal back on its feet.

Ms Jackline Langat from Mile-Ine in Kipkelion East Constituency also owns two donkeys. Like Kirui, the 35-year-old ventured into the business in 2005, but she started by carrying 10 litres of milk on her back for the 6km trip to the dairy.

BACK-BREAKING WORK

“After saving Sh4,500, I felt it was time to abandon the back-breaking work and bought my first donkey in 2007. I later added another one,” she says. With the two donkeys, Ms Langat says she transports at least 150 litres of milk a day from 70 cattle farmers, and earns an average Sh10,000 a month.

“Gone are the days when I would lose sleep wondering where I would get money to pay my children’s school fees,” she says.

She has three children in secondary school.

Langat says she is happy with her business since the donkeys are low maintenance and hardly fall ill.

“Apart from ensuring that the animals have grass to graze on, are de-wormed and have licking salt, there is little more they require, so it allows me to maximise my profits.”

Kipkelion Dairy Chairman Elisha Mursi says the milk transporters play a crucial role in preventing the loss of thousands of litres of milk.

“In some cases, the donkey milk transporters make it to the dairy even before the first vehicle arrives,” he says.

The dairy was established in 2002 and began with 10 members who used to supply 300 litres of milk; today it receives an average 15,000 litres from 4,000 suppliers.

Kericho Governor Paul Chepkwony told Business Beat that his administration has set aside Sh450 million for the construction of feeder roads.

“Rural access roads that had never been touched before are going to be opened up, and every ward in the county is set to enjoy at least 15km of new access roads,” he says.

[email protected]

Financial Standard
Premium Inside the Equity-KCB supremacy war
Financial Standard
Premium Economy on a standstill as country headed for elections
Financial Standard
Premium The making of Sh594m fraud: 'We thought we were buying an elephant'
Financial Standard
Premium A dream deferred: How Tullow woes, Covid derailed Jubilee oil export plan