Pouring milk down the drain offends senses

Seeing thousands of litres of milk being poured on the ground is painful for many Kenyans. Even worse, this is happening in a country where hundreds of children are malnourished or going hungry.

Ostensibly, those farmers emptying their milk cans on the ground are doing so for lack of storage and preserving facilities.

In most pastoralist communities, there is no such thing as "bad milk". Sour milk is preserved and consumed over long periods. In the absence of such knowledge, and because of the inevitable commercialisation of production, there is little alternative than to empty the cans to await fresh stock the next day.

How did we come to this sad state of affairs? Four things happened. First, adoption of high-yielding dairy cows, and genetic upgrading of local breeds over decades, have pushed milk output up to unprecedented levels.

Second, crackdowns by Kenya Dairy Board to promote hygienic handling of milk have made it difficult for farmers to hawk excess milk, or identify well meaning individuals to transport it to deficit areas.

Fines for breaking the rules on milk handling are stiff, but the exclusive beneficiaries have been private milk processors, thus ensuring milk prices remain high in a country that is self-sufficient in the dairy product stuff.

Act of mercy

Finally, the Government has failed to implement plans to have strategically placed milk cooling centres, and to promote value addition through milk co-operatives that would see farmers export branded milk products.

For now, Kenya Dairy Board should relax some of its rules and allow for philanthropists to collect the excess milk and deliver it to schools in hardship areas, but under its supervision. Now that would be a true act of mercy.