Alice Jemeli Rotich Boit was just settling into married life to husband John Cheruiyot Boit in August 1986. In their third year of marriage, the couple had one son, Brian, and were expecting their second born in two months.
Then in April 1989, tragedy struck. John was involved in a road accident that took his life. Alice found herself a widow at 26.
“It was so shocking to be a widow. I could not believe it was me. I did not know what would follow,” Alice narrates in an interview with Eve Woman at her Kapkong village home in Sugoi location, Turbo constituency, Uasin Gishu County. “A lot went through my mind. Apart from raising two sons, I had to fill their father’s shoes by being a breadwinner,” she recalls. Fortunately, her husband’s family stood with her.
“I received support from my father-in-law and mother-in-law. They gave me love and guidance. They were successful dairy farmers and they guided me well through it. By then, I had resumed my duties where I worked,” she says. Alice works at the College of Health Science at Moi University as a Senior Housekeeper. Previously, Alice had attended Kabarak High School and later proceeded to Kenya Utalii College for a Diploma Course. She later advanced her Education at Moi University graduating with a Degree in Hotel and Hospitality Management.
According to Alice, her father-in-law, the Late Paul Kiplimo Boit, had closely observed her and was confident she could independently practise dairy farming to sustain her young family.
“He gave me 25 dairy cows and showed me a portion of family land. He asked me to transform myself into a serious dairy farmer. With the fear of God, patience, hard work and passion, I took on the venture,” she says. She says that with the responsibilities increasing as her boys grew, she fully occupied herself with dairy farming and advanced productivity every year.
“Through God’s grace, I turned dairy farming into a business, achieving 300 litres daily – 200 in the morning and 100 in the afternoon. The years that followed were fulfilling and I understood management of cattle, from when they are calves to being promising heifers and later to high yielders,” she says.
However, the business also came with challenges. She nearly gave up when a milk processor where she supplied milk came under difficult times and she would go for months without payment.
“I lost Sh300,000 and started using earnings from my employment to maintain my herd. Eventually, I could neither afford to treat or dip them. I lost my herd that reduced from 70 to 20 cows,” she said.
She was however determined and did not lose faith in the dairy sector having realised how profitable the venture is. She began a search for another processor after her daily milk production dropped to about 50 litres per day.
“When Brookside Dairy came to Eldoret town, I handed my details to them seeking to supply my produce. A few weeks later, they approved my application and started collecting milk from my doorstep without charge,” says Alice.
Brookside, she adds has also provided her with a facility to purchase a cryogenic three-litre tank for good quality semen to upgrade her cows. The company has also enabled her purchase dairy concentrate from an Agro-vet that partners with it and costs are deducted from milk income.
“This has helped me grow tremendously. I have benefited from field visits from where extension officers provide valued advice,” she says.
She is a consistent supplier of milk and is among farmers across the country expected to attend next week’s three-day Brookside Livestock Breeders show and sale 2016 at Jamhuri Park showground in Nairobi. Farmers expect to learn more on livestock husbandry, how to conserve pasture during the rainy season thus maintaining milk production throughout the year, best practices in the dairy sector and financing.
Alice has restored her production and currently, she supplies over 300 litres of milk to Brookside Dairies each day. The steady payment, she adds, has also enabled her construct a private cattle dip that caters for over 100 of her dairy cows.
“My sons are now aged 29 and 27 respectively,” she says proudly. “The dairy sector enabled me educate my two sons through leading institutions up to university level. I provided for them without calling for harambees and ensured that they led a quality life. My sons, both of whom are graduates, want to venture into serious agribusiness. They are my great friends and we live like they are my brothers and I, their sister. We are very close and always have discussions and dine together,” she says. Her advice to other women is that they should take dairy farming as a rewarding business.
Speaking to Eve Woman following the interview with Alice, Brookside Dairy’s director of milk procurement, Mr John Gethi said the processor was keen on helping Alice and other dairy farmers in the area to further grow dairy production through investment in animal feed preparation and preservation.
“We have lined up a number of capacity building courses for our raw milk suppliers in Eldoret and its environs. We are encouraged by the hard work exhibited by women in dairy in the area, and our dairy training courses should help them increase profits,” Mr Gethi said.