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Free Cherangany milk project keeps young pupils in school, boosts learning

RIFT VALLEY
By Martin Ndiema | August 15th 2021
Grade 1 pupils of Kapkongor primary display packaged milk supplied to the school by the Dairy Farmers of Trans Nzoia ltd which supports feeding programmes in selected schools in Cherang’any constituency. [Martin Ndiema, Standard]

As the clock ticks towards 6.30am, Jaydeen Chemtai braves the morning chill as she heads to Biririet Primary School, some three kilometres from her home in Mwaita, Cherangany Constituency.

Barefoot and in a faded green blouse, black dress and a patched maroon sweater, the five-year-old Pre-Primary 2 pupil walks for about a kilometre to the main road, where she often meets her colleagues.

But Chemtai is not the only Pre-Primary pupil who makes it early to school. According to her class teacher Annette Andayi, at least 20 out of the 24 pupils in her class come to school very early.

“This wasn’t the trend initially, but more pupils have enrolled in the school in the recent past. We have also noticed a positive behavioural change among the young scholars who report to school early,” she said.

Andayi attributed the changes to free milk programme for PP1, PP2 and Grade 1 pupils, introduced one year ago.

Biririet Primary School receives 5,000 litres of milk per week from dairy farmers in Trans Nzoia as a donation towards the institution’s feeding programme.

Farmers in several wards in the sub-county have established the dairy farmers’ cooperative society that collects and preserves milk before distributing it to processing firms.

According toIsaac Ruto, the cooperative manager, the organisation has received contributions from well-wishers, among them the former Member of Parliament Wesley Korir and Kenya Kids Foundation.

He says a Sh20 million donation from the Kenya Kids Foundation has enabled the organisation to supply free milk to eight schools in Cherangany Ward. “We have come a long way and wish to give back to the community, even as we plan to expand our milk plant and roll out the free milk programme to schools in the entire county,” said Ruto.

He noted that the cooperative got a nod from the Kenya Bureau of Standards to process and package milk. With an initial capital of Sh2 million, the farmers set up a cooling plant for milk collected from farmers in parts of the sub-county.

But certain traders took advantage of the society’s meagre resources to purchase milk at very low prices of between Sh17 and Sh20 per litre. This made it difficult for the growth of the society initially, but the pace kept rising with support from well-wishers and other stakeholders.

“The simplest way to better the world is making one good deed at a time. We transform society through lifting others,” said Korir, who contributed to initiation of the programme.

The cooperative society now directly benefits over 10,000 farmers who supply at least 50,000 litres of milk daily, with more than 20 people employed at the milk plant.

At least Sh500,000 has been used to upgrade the plant that intends to package its produce with value addition. The members and staff have access to personal and school fees loans, and this has helped them improve their living standards.

Sarah Sugut, a teacher at Biribiriet Primary School, said the milk programme has helped keep pupils in school. “Pupils are now more passionate about education and cases of absenteeism have reduced,” Sarah said.

A spot check established that lower grade classes were filled with pupils and there was a marked increase in the enrolment of the PP2 and Grade One pupils in Bwake, Makutano, Kuriot, Kapcheplanget, Kapkongor and Kapchemagwer primary schools.

Farmers have also upgraded their local breeds. Management offers AI services using products sourced from Semex, a leading animal genetic breeder in Canada.

Korir called on the government to intervene and subsidise animal feeds to increase milk production and earnings.

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