Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page

Smallholder dairy production and marketing in Kenya

H.G. Muriuki

Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development
P.O. Box 30028, Nairobi, Kenya

Dairy production Conclusions


Kenya has a population of about 29 million people, a land area of about 571 thousand square kilometers and a varied climate stretching from humid in the coastal areas to cool temperate in the interior highlands. Its land productivity potential also varies from high potential, constituting less than 20% of the total land area, to very low potential in dry areas in the north-eastern parts of the country.

Agriculture is the backbone of Kenya’s economy, contributing over 25% of the gross domestic product (GDP); it is the lifeline of about 80% of the country’s poor and contributes 70% of the national employment.

Kenya has a unique smallholder dairy system, which is the most developed in sub-Saharan Africa with an estimated dairy herd of 3 million head. Most of the dairy cattle are crosses of Friesian–Holstein, Ayrshire, other dairy breeds and local zebus. The smallholder dairy farms are concentrated in the crop–dairy systems of the high productivity potential areas of the country, produce about 60% of total milk production and contribute over 80% of the marketed output.

Dairy marketing in Kenya is mainly of liquid milk where over 80% is sold raw with the participation of itinerant milk traders (hawkers) who control about 28% of marketed milk (Staal et al. 1999), despite a policy that discourages them.

Dairy is important in the livelihoods of many farm households in rural Kenya and in terms of generating incomes and employment, including off-farm employment.

The presence of a large population of dairy cattle, a large and growing human population who include milk as part of their diets and a supportive environment are indications of the opportunities that exist for smallholder dairying in Kenya.

Investment in the national rural infrastructure such as rural access roads, water supply and electricity and economic improvement in the country will allow for increased milk supply and consumption, and will contribute to increased employment.


Kenya has a total area of 582,646 km2, of which 11,230 km2 is under water ( CBS 1999), and a human population of 28.7 million (CBS 2001). Its climate varies from warm and humid in the coastal areas to cool temperate in the highlands. The annual rainfall ranges from less than 200 to over 2000 mm in some parts of the highlands.

According to land productivity potential, the country can broadly be divided into three regions (Figure 1):

Source: Ominde (1988).
Figure 1. Kenya's land productivity potential.

Kenya’s economy is based largely on agriculture, which contributes over 25% of the GDP. Agriculture also provides raw materials for agro-industries; accounting for about 70% of all industries. Over 80% of the country’s population rely on agriculture for employment and general livelihood. The contribution of livestock to the economy is most appreciated in the drier parts of the country. According to Gem Argwings Kodhek (Tegemeo Institute of Agricultural Policy and Development, personal communication), dairy is the second largest contributor to the agricultural GDP, second only to beef.

Dairy production

The dairy industry is the most developed of the livestock subsectors and is comparatively well developed relative to the dairy industries of other countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The industry, like other agricultural subsectors, is dominated by small-scale farmers.

Milk is produced primarily from cattle (the main source of marketed milk in Kenya), camels and goats, which contribute 84, 12 and 4%, respectively (Table 1).

Table 1. Estimated population of milk animal species/breeds and percentage contribution to annual milk production (1997).


Breed type

Estimated number
( 103)

Milk production
(% contribution)


Improved dairy type




Camelus dromedarius




Indigenous (East African)
Improved dairy type



Source: MoARD unpublished (Kenya Dairy Development Policy Proposal for 2000).

The major types of cattle kept for milk production are the improved exotic breeds and their crosses (collectively called ‘dairy cattle’) and the indigenous (zebu) cattle, which provide milk for communities in the drier parts of the country. The Sahiwal, though a zebu, is usually grouped together with the exotic cattle because it is regarded as an improved dual-purpose breed. The improved dairy cattle contribute about 60% and the zebu cattle about 25% of the total national milk output (Table 1). Market-oriented dairy farming in Kenya, where exotic cattle are dominant, is concentrated in the crop–dairy systems of the high potential areas where feed supply and disease control are much better than in the arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs) of the country. Zebu cattle, which constitute about 70% of the total population of cattle in Kenya, are, however, widely distributed and are found in all agro-ecological zones of the country due to their adaptation to highly diverse environments. About 70% of the herd is found in the ASALs of the country.

The dairy herd is mainly composed of purebred Friesian–Holstein, Ayrshire, Guernsey, Jersey and their crosses. The crosses constitute over 50% of the total herd while the Friesian–Holstein and Ayrshire dominate the pure breeds.

Dairy production systems in Kenya can largely be classified as large- or small-scale. Small-scale producers (the smallholders) dominate dairy production owning over 80% of the 3 million dairy cattle, producing 56% of the total milk production and contributing 80% of the marketed milk (Peeler and Omore 1997). In a recent study by the Smallholder Dairy (Research and Development (R&D)) Project (SDP) (Staal et al. 1999), covering the majority of the milk producing regions in the country, most of those surveyed were smallholders and 73% of these had dairy cattle. These findings confirmed the importance of dairy in Kenya’s agricultural sector and the country’s economy. The study also confirmed that dairy production is conducted on small farms with crossbred cow herds, which range in size from one to three head, and that production is based on close integration of livestock and crops. Dairying is a multi-purpose cattle system providing milk, manure and a capital asset to the farmer.

Smallholder dairying in Kenya

As mentioned earlier, dairy production in Kenya is predominantly run by smallholders. Nevertheless, market-oriented dairy farming in Kenya, based on exotic cattle, started almost a century ago when European settlers introduced dairy cattle breeds and other exotic forms of agriculture from their native countries. Several factors, which include the presence of significant dairy cattle populations, the importance of milk in the diets of most Kenyan communities, a suitable climate for dairy cattle and a conducive policy and institutional environment, have been contributing factors to the success of dairy production by smallholders (Conelly 1998; Thorpe et al. 2000). The success is also attributable to the fact that milk serves as a cash crop providing a continuous stream of cash throughout the year for households growing other cash crops whose income is realised only once or twice a year.

Improved dairy cattle production by indigenous Kenyans was not carried out until after 1954 when the Swynnerton Plan of 1954 allowed them to engage in commercial agriculture (Conelly 1998). By 1963, when Kenya attained independence, the dairy herd had expanded to about 400 thousand exotic cattle largely in the hands of the settlers.

After independence, there was a rapid transfer of dairy cattle from the settler farms to the smallholders resulting in a decline in the cattle population on large-scale farms to 250 thousand head by 1965. To encourage dairy production by smallholders, the government effected a number of changes in the provision of livestock production and marketing services, resulting in highly subsidised services. In 1971, the government abolished the contract and quota system of dairy marketing to Kenya Co-operative Creameries (KCC) to allow for the inclusion of smallholder producers.

The continued provision of highly subsidised livestock and other services by the government proved unsustainable due to budgetary and other constraints. By the late 1980s, the quality of livestock services provided by the government had declined, prompting it to adopt structural adjustment and economic restructuring which, among other changes, included liberalisation of the dairy industry with a view to increasing the role of the private sector (Omore et al. 1999). In the period preceding the 1980s, parastatal and other quasi-government institutions such as KCC and Kenya Farmers Association played major roles in marketing and delivery of agricultural commodities, services and inputs. With their collapse, there is increased reliance on the private sector, including community-based organisations (CBOs), for delivery of livestock and other agricultural services formerly in the government domain.

Development of smallholder dairy production systems in the Kenya highlands has been marked by declining farm size, upgrading to dairy breeds and an increasing reliance on purchased feeds, both concentrates and forage (Staal et al. 1997). In areas such as Kiambu District, purchased fodder has become very important in dairying. The area planted with fodder for sale is equal to the area planted with maize, the staple food crop.

Dairy production by smallholders is a multi-purpose cattle system producing milk and manure, and serving as a capital asset. It is characterised by small crop–livestock farms, each comprising a few acres. The dairy cattle are mostly adult cows. As mentioned earlier, an important feature of the smallholder system is that milk is a cash crop for households who generally grow other cash crops and use manure to fertilise food and cash crops. Cash crops in these farms may include coffee, tea, market vegetables, pyrethrum and, in some cases, cut flowers. The main food crop is maize, but others include beans, sweet potatoes, potatoes, vegetables (such as kale) and in a few cases, wheat. The major cattle feeds are natural grass and planted fodder, mainly Napier grass. Other feeds, which depend on area and availability, include maize crop residues, compounded feeds, milling by-products and weeds. Where farms are small, cattle are confined and fed through a cut-and-carry system in which feed materials are brought to the animals (Baltenweck et al. 1998; Staal et al. 1999). The importance of manure in dairy adoption has largely been overlooked. Studies by the Smallholder Dairy Project, Lekasi et al. (1998) have shown that nutrient cycling through dairy animals and use of manure is a key driving force to dairy adoption and to sustaining smallholdings. In some cases dairy cattle have been kept mainly to supply manure for coffee plants and food crops.

Cattle breeding in the smallholder sector depends on the availability and cost of artificial insemination (AI) services and/or bull service. Use of AI was very popular when it was provided almost free-of-charge by the government but use of bulls has been increasing since the collapse of the government AI services, following their liberalisation. There has been increased reliance on the private sector, including CBOs, to provide AI and other livestock services in place of the collapsed government services; however, as yet they have not been able to fill the gap. Either because of this or other circumstances, calving intervals are long, with an official national estimate of 450 days and recent studies indicating an average of 590 days in Kiambu (Staal et al 1998a). There have been discussions, at the policy level, on how the change from a government controlled to a liberalised economy, including dairy subsector, should have been managed to avoid disruptions of service provision to the farmers. Nevertheless, no ‘concrete’ plans have been put in place to address the issues discussed.

Milk production in the smallholder sector is constrained by a number of factors; the major ones being the level of dairy cattle feeding, animal genetics and disease challenges. Disease challenge has become more important where dairy production practices have spread into less productive areas because of the need for more agricultural land. In these areas, grazing systems dominate and disease risks are high. Disease challenge, especially of tick-borne diseases e.g. East Coast fever (ECF), is equally important in the high potential areas as a result of the collapsed government services and failure of the private sector to fill the gap. Other important factors that influence dairy development, besides animal management related issues, include poor and inadequate infrastructure.

Milk marketing and marketing channels

As mentioned earlier, milk production in Kenya is based on several different species of livestock but for marketed milk, the most important species is cattle.

It is estimated that of the 2.4 million tonnes of milk produced annually from all species, cattle produce about 2 million tonnes, of which 1.6 million tonnes is from the dairy herd and mainly from the smallholders.

On-farm consumption (non-marketed milk) accounts for about 40% of milk and the remaining 60% is marketed through various channels (Figure 2). Less than 15% of marketed milk flows through milk processors (Thorpe et al. 2000), who include Brookside, Spin Knit, Premier, KCC and other smaller private processors. The balance of marketed milk is sold as raw milk. Non-processed milk marketing channels include: direct milk sales to consumers by farm households (58%); and milk collected by dairy co-operative societies, self help groups and individual milk traders who also sell either directly to consumers or to processors.

Differences in milk marketing channels exist between and within the country’s various regions. Until recently, marketing through KCC dominated in areas with high production and low consumer concentration or few alternative market outlets. Nairobi city and its environs, which is the largest single market in the country, accounts for over 60% of the formally marketed milk whilst Coast Province and parts of Western Province are among the milk deficit areas in the country.

Note: Percentages indicate the proportions from the source; SHG = self help groups; KCC = Kenya Co-operative Creameries.
Source: Modified from Omore et al. (1999).
Figure 2. Milk marketing channels.

Women and school age children contribute greatly to labour for dairy activities, especially to milk production and marketing, which involve waking up very early in the morning to feed and milk cows, and to take the milk to market. This labour input has been viewed negatively, raising concern relating to gender imbalances in labour distribution at the farm level.

Supply and demand situation

Kenya has largely been self sufficient in milk and milk products, except in years of extreme bad weather. Very little however is known about the real demand for milk and milk products. Consumption in the country is mainly in the form of liquid milk.

Available statistics show that milk production in Kenya nearly doubled from about 1.3 million tonnes in 1981 to about 2.5 million tonnes in 1990, but has since stagnated (MoARD unpublished—Dairy Development Policy Proposal). This reduction in milk production is, however, difficult to explain given the fact that there has not been any observed major milk shortfall in the country. Consequently, recent statistics may underestimate milk production. This possibility is made more likely by the results of recent studies by the Smallholder Dairy Project (Ouma et al. 2000), which showed underestimation in one of the districts in Central Kenya.

On the other hand, milk demand is expected to continue to increase due to growth of the human population for which the highest rate of growth is expected in the urban centres.

It has been estimated that annual consumption of milk and dairy products in developing countries will be more than double between 1993 and 2020, from approximately 168 to 391 million tonnes (Thorpe et al. 2000). Population growth, urbanisation and increased purchasing power are expected to drive this increase in consumption. Estimated growth in the consumption of milk and dairy products in developing countries is 3.3%. This compares with the 2.6% annual growth reported by Leaver et al. (1998) for developing countries in the short term. In Kenya, the 3.3% projected annual growth in consumption seems to be in line with the country’s 3% per year population growth and the continued urbanisation. It is, however, doubtful whether this growth will be achieved in the near future, especially the proportion of growth in consumption expected from increased purchasing power, since the economic trend in the country indicates otherwise.

The Kenya Dairy Master Plan report (MoLD 1991) estimated that per capita consumption of marketed milk was 125 kg/year in the urban areas and 19 kg/year in the rural areas. Milk producing rural areas, however, were reported to have a higher per capita consumption. Preliminary results of a study carried out in Nairobi and Nakuru by the Smallholder Dairy Project indicate higher levels of consumption and a reversal of the urban–rural levels of consumption, with Nakuru rural areas having higher levels of consumption per capita than both Nakuru and Nairobi urban centres (Ouma et al. 2000).

The Dairy Master Plan (MoLD 1991) predicted a national milk surplus (i.e. higher marketed supply than consumption) by the year 2000. Nevertheless, using KCC data for intake and sales, another study (Muriuki 1991) predicted a possible shortfall in marketed milk by the same year. The main reason for the predicted shortfall was the observation of a continued rise in demand for marketed milk as human population continued to grow, especially in the urban centres, while the observed growth in milk production was slow. Another factor that could increase demand for milk is growth in personal incomes. However, per capita income in Kenya has been declining; thus, no increase in milk demand is expected from this source.

On the supply side, most of the increase in marketed milk has been based on continued increase in size of the dairy cattle population. This population has, however, stagnated over the last decade. The milk yield per cow has been very low, with an annual yield of 1300 kg/cow. Lactation averages are also low for the officially recorded herds, comprised of the national dairy cow elite mainly owned by large-scale farmers. Available information from the Dairy Recording Services of Kenya (formerly the Kenya Milk Records) for the year 2000 show an average lactation (305 days) yield of 4477 kg for the Friesian–Holstein, which was the highest for all the dairy breeds recorded (Esther Gicharu, Dairy Recording System of Kenya, personal communication).

Considering the above scenario, indications are that both demand and supply have the potential to increase. On the demand side, per capita income especially for the urban population will be critical, while on the supply side, many factors will be in play: feeds and feeding, market infrastructure, relative milk price, production systems etc.

Given the current economic situation, where real income levels seem to be declining and going by the past trends, supply and demand balance is not expected to change significantly. Even with the prevailing economic conditions, Kenya is self-sufficient in milk and milk products; this situation is likely to persist for some time to come unless the economic and market situations change. Nonetheless, if any change does occur the situation is more likely to move towards shortfalls in milk production than production of a surplus.

Dairy as a source of livelihood

In Kenya, there are about 625 thousand smallholder dairy farmers (Peeler and Omore 1997) whose main source of income is dairying. About 40% of the milk produced is retained at home for household consumption and for calf feeding. This confirms the importance of dairy both as a source of income for rural household and as a source of household nutrition. Per capita milk consumption for households producing milk on the farm is higher than the national rural average (MoLD 1991) emphasising the importance of milk in the diets of the Kenyan rural community who constitute three quarters of the poor people in the country.

The ability of dairy enterprises to earn regular income and to contribute to the household diet on a daily basis throughout the year is an advantage over other farm enterprises. This is a pointer as to why dairy is favoured as a cash crop for most farm households in the high potential areas of Kenya, even where other cash crops do equally well.

Dairy production also creates employment for the rural communities at the farm level and off-farm employment to informal milk traders, co-operatives and others dealing with milk marketing. Recent studies indicated that labour for dairy production activities was provided mainly by the family but 60% of household were found to hire labour, with 20% retaining permanent labour throughout the year (Staal et al. 1998b).

At a Land O’Lakes Regional Round Table meeting held in Malawi in March 2000 (Staal et al. 2000) indicated that for every 100 litres of milk/day, the processing sector employs 0.2 to 0.4 persons; milk bars employ 1.2 to 2 persons and itinerant traders (hawkers) employ 3 persons. These figures have been contested by the milk processors who want to believe that the processing subsector has a higher ‘multiplier’ effect than the informal sector. Nevertheless, the ability to create employment is very important in a country where level of unemployment is very high and the economic situation is poor.

It has been noted that adult women in Kenya are more involved in intensified dairying than adult men (Tangka et al. 1999). Women contribute more labour in activities such as collecting and processing of feed, feeding, milking, marketing of milk, cleaning of sheds and fetching of water for animals. Although women carry out most of the work in dairying activities, they also appreciate that they are better off due to income increases and stability (Mullins et al. 1996).

Access to income by women, not only from dairy enterprises but also from other agricultural enterprises such as tea and coffee, is of concern at policy level. Men have been accused of receiving the cash payment from farm earnings and misappropriating it on personal enjoyment. Dairy income, however, is controlled primarily by women and very little of this income shifts into the control of men. For example, Tangka et al. (1999) found that women had some control over dairy income in 76% of surveyed households.

Participation of itinerant milk traders (hawkers) has generated much controversy in Kenya, mainly because of perceived health risks to the consumer. What is not in dispute, however, is that the informal market, which handles the bulk of marketed milk (Thorpe et al. 2000), pays higher farm gate prices, offers lower consumer prices and generates employment for rural people. It is also reported that milk traders earn higher daily wages than the general average for their category of workers. Other benefits from dairying include animal manure, which is used on the farm or sold for cash. Manure is important in sustaining smallholdings and accounts for the apparent profitability of dairying, even where dairying appears to be a loss making enterprise.

National effort towards development of smallholder dairying

The adoption of dairy production by the smallholder in Kenya owes much to the government’s policy and effort, which have deliberately developed the sector. This was more pronounced soon after independence. The donors have also contributed through specific programmes and projects. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) have made major efforts to develop the dairy industry, especially the processing subsector. KCC developed most of its infrastructure through the interventions of these donors, especially DANIDA. Other notable programmes include the National Dairy Development Project (NDDP) and the Rural Dairy Development Project (RDDP) sponsored by the Dutch and Finnish Governments, respectively. The NDDP’s major activities were towards improved production while the RDDP focused on marketing.

Current efforts include the SDP, funded mainly by the Department for International Development (DfID) and the Kenya Government, who contribute in kind, and the Livestock Development Project (LDP), which is sponsored by the Finnish Government. The SDP’s goal is to contribute to sustainable improvements in the livelihoods of poor people in Kenya and their purpose is to improve access by smallholder dairy farmers to technologies, advice and information. The project is an integrated research and development programme implemented through collaboration between the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MoARD), the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). With declining farm sizes due to pressure on land from the expanding population and access to formerly public-delivered research and development services, a major issue is how to make the smallholder farmer more productive within the existing economic situation. SDP has plans to address these issues by testing and validating service delivery mechanisms through farmers’ organisations. One concept that was tested recently is the delivery of dairy feed to society members through credit arrangements with their co-operative society’s processing plant, where the payment system is based on deductions from payouts. Other areas that the project is considering for testing include delivery of extension services through milk processors and other market agents, and through contract arrangements. To make impact in these areas, the project is refocusing its purpose and putting more emphasis on influencing policy and institution reforms through informed ideas.

The LDP’s overall objective is to improve the standard of living for the rural population within the programme area, the western Kenya region, through increased milk production and consumption. A major feature of the LDP is its holistic approach combining efforts to increase milk production and improve the efficiency of the milk system.

The above are just some of the projects targeting dairy improvement. There are also other efforts through non-governmental organisations and other community specific projects.

Environmental impact of dairy production

Environmental problems arise from: natural calamities such as drought and floods; human, livestock, crop and forest diseases; soil erosion, degradation, infertility and desertification; and human activities which exacerbate natural problems or create new man-made problems, such as pollution, encroachment into other land uses leading to deforestation and negative impacts on wildlife and on pastoralists (MoARD 1995).

Population increases in Kenya, which are currently estimated at 3% per year, have created pressure on land, forest and water resources.

According to an FAO report on the Dairy Development Project (FAO 1993), the possible negative environmental impacts of promoting dairy development in Kenya are overgrazing of natural pastures, and pollution by cooling and processing plants. The Dairy Master Plan (MoLD 1991) had raised the issue of overgrazing but little attention was given to this issue. The major concern arose from the fact that as the pressure on land increases, there could be further subdivision of the already small parcels of land in the highly populated areas. This is particularly worrying as each new household is likely to own cows regardless of the size of its parcel of land. One ‘school of thought’ was that if dairy production continued to rely on natural grazing, an increase in the Kenyan dairy population would lead to overgrazing since the dairy population had already reached its threshold by 1990. The FAO report (FAO 1993), however, observed that in the context of Kenya, development of dairying would not entail overgrazing because the additional feed would not be obtained from the areas which are already over-exploited; instead, farmers would tend to rely more on grown fodder and increased use of concentrates.

Other concerns relating to environmental degradation are consequent to the movement of communities from high potential areas to marginal lands, as a result of pressure on land without consideration to the land’s carrying capacity. The immigrants tend to move with their practices including the keeping of dairy cattle. The result is usually overgrazing and other forms of land abuse, such as deforestation and other demands, e.g. for fuelwood. The spread of farming practices, such as dairy production, to less productive areas of the country where less land use intensification has occurred and where grazing systems dominate, makes disease challenges and land degradation risks more important because of their influence on adoption and performance of dairy production.

While one cannot rule out possibilities of pollution from milk cooling and processing plants, the problem may not be significant. A possible source of pollution is the packaging materials used for milk, which tend to be abandoned as rubbish. Pollution from cattle waste is unlikely until there is more commercial intensification; currently, demand for manure is higher than supply. Under the current situation, manure is an integral part of the smallholder crop–dairy system and is a driving force to dairy adoption in some parts of the country. Manure is a medium for nutrient cycling through the animal and sustains smallholder systems.

While there has been concern over possible environmental degradation by livestock, no major study has been carried out to establish the situation and possible impact of current production and processing practices. Other possible sources of environmental problems include the use of cattle dips, poor choice of location for cattle dips and uncontrolled use of prescription drugs. The collapse of the government veterinary services, as a result of structural adjustments and economic reforms may exacerbate these problems, as there has been an emergence of alternative service providers who are only semi-qualified and are likely to misuse drugs.

Some current common practices of smallholders, such as the planting of fodder species, e.g. Napier grass, are environmental friendly and help to protect the soil from erosion etc.

Smallholder production opportunities and constraints

In the past, adoption of dairy farming in Kenya has been favoured by several factors including: the presence of smallholder communities who kept cattle and who included milk as an important part of their diets; the presence of a significant dairy cattle population; a subtropical geography suitable for dairy cattle farming; and a conducive policy and institutional environment provided by successive governments (Thorpe et al. 2000). This combination of factors has led to a unique smallholder dairy industry in Kenya.

Furthermore, opportunities for smallholder dairy production in Kenya are enhanced by the fact that the country has the genetic base and holds 85% of the dairy cattle population of eastern Africa (Thorpe et al. 2000); a well developed milk processing sector putting it ahead of its neighbours; and the recent re-launching of the East African Community that has resulted in formation of a common market for a combined population of about 81 million people (Daily Nation, 16 January 2001).

The contribution of dairying to the sustainability of smallholder crop–dairy systems through its roles in nutrient cycling, regular cash generation ability, employment creation and provision of farm household nutrition makes it an easy choice as a vehicle to address rural poverty.

Development of smallholder dairying is, however, constrained by many factors including: feed scarcities, disease challenges, the poor state of infrastructure such as rural access roads, and water and electricity supplies, limited access to suitable credit and the general poor national economic performance. Other problems include slow legal and policy reforms and poor access to production and marketing services including those for agricultural inputs.

Infrastructure such as rural access roads, and water and rural electricity supplies have a major influence on milk marketing efficiency and are perhaps the most limiting factors to the development of the smallholder dairy.


Smallholder dairying dominates both milk production and marketing in Kenya. The history of the dairy industry in Kenya spans almost a century, but not until the 1960s did the smallholder get into commercial dairy production. Dairying is a source of income not only to the estimated 625 thousand smallholder households, but also to a larger number of individuals employed in milk marketing. Moreover, it plays a crucial role in sustaining smallholder crop–dairy systems through nutrient cycling within the system.

The current milk production level of 4–5 litres/cow per day can be improved. This will, however, only occur if there is investment in market infrastructure and a general improvement in the economy.

Dairy is an important factor in the effort to reduce poverty in the rural areas of Kenya. Most smallholders start very poor and struggle to acquire their first cow as a means to get out of poverty and to sustain their household; therefore, owning a cow is a means of survival.

Dairy also creates employment opportunities through both the informal and formal market channels. From information obtained through the SDP, it appears that the informal sector is the more efficient in terms of prices, net incomes and employment creation. It has been argued that the road to dairy development cannot be through the informal sector, but the reality as seen in many developing countries is that the sale of raw milk, which drives the informal sector, is going to continue for a long time to come.


Baltenweck I., Staal S.J., Owango M., Muriuki H., Lukuyu B., Gichungu G., Kenyanjui M., Njubi D., Tanner J. and Thorpe W. 1998. Intensification of dairying in the greater Nairobi milk-shed: Spatial and household analysis. Smallholder Dairy (Research & Development) Project. MoA/KARI/ILRI Collaborative Research Report. ILRI (International Livestock Research Institute), Nairobi, Kenya.

CBS (Central Bureau of Statistics). 1999. Statistical abstract 1999. CBS, Office of the President and Ministry of Planning and National Development, Nairobi, Kenya.

CBS (Central Bureau of Statistics). 2001. 1999 Population and housing census. Volume I. CBS, Office of the President and Ministry of Planning and National Development, Nairobi, Kenya.

Conelly W.T. 1998. Colonial era livestock development policy: Introduction of improved dairy cattle in high-potential farming areas of Kenya. World Development 26:1733–1748.

FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations). 1993. Kenya Dairy Development Project preparation report. Report 34/93 CP–KEN 33. FAO, Rome, Italy.

Leaver J.D., Santos F.J. and Anderson S. 1998. Meeting consumer demands for milk and identifying research priorities. In: Gill M., Smith T., Pollott G.E., Owen E. and Lawrence T.L.J. (eds), Proceedings of a symposium organised by the British Society of Animal Science held at Nairobi, Kenya, 27–30 January 1998. BSAS Occasional Publication 21. BSAS (British Society for Animal Science), Edinburgh, UK. pp. 43–51.

Lekasi J.K., Tanner J.C., Kimani S.K. and Harris P.J.C. 1998. Manure management in the Kenya highlands: Practices and potential. The Henry Doubleday Research Association, Brainsdale, Victoria, Australia. 35 pp.

MoARD (Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development). 1995. Agricultural sector review. ASIP Secretariat, Kilimo House, Nairobi, Kenya.

MoARD (Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development). Kenya Dairy Development Policy proposal 2000. Unpublished.

MoLD (Ministry of Livestock Development). 1991. Kenya Dairy Master Plan. Report prepared for the Ministry by the Danish International Development Agency, August 1991. MoLD, Nairobi, Kenya.

Mullins G., Wahome L., Tsangari P. and Maarse L. 1996. Impact of intensive dairy production on smallholder farm women in Coastal Kenya. Human Ecology 24:231–253.

Muriuki H.G. 1991. Liquid milk supply and demand in the formal (KCC) market in Kenya: A government price fixed market. MSc thesis, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA.

Ominde S.H. 1988. Kenya’s population growth and development to the year 2000.

Omore A., Muriuki H., Kenyanjui M., Owango M. and Staal S.J. 1999. The Kenya dairy subsector: A rapid appraisal. Smallholder Dairy (Research and Development) Project Report. Nairobi, Kenya. 51 pp.

Ouma E., Staal S.J., Omore A., Wanjohi P., Njoroge L. and Njubi D. 2000. Consumption patterns of dairy products in Kenya. MoA/KARI/ILRI Collaborative Research Report, Smallholder Dairy (Research & Development) Project, Nairobi, Kenya.

Peeler E.J. and Omore A. 1997. Manual of livestock production systems in Kenya. 2nd edition. KARI (Kenya Agricultural Research Institute), Nairobi, Kenya. 138 pp.

Staal S. and Muriuki H. 2000. Policies and the informal sector in the dairy industry. Paper orally presented at a Land O’Lake Round Table Meeting in Malawi. (unpublished).

Staal S., Delgado C. and Nicholson C. 1997. Smallholder dairying under transactions costs in East Africa. World Development 25:779–794.

Staal S., Chege L., Kenyanjui M., Kimari A., Lukuyu B., Njubi D., Owango M., Tanner J., Thorpe W. and Wambugu M. 1998a. Characterisation of dairy systems supplying the Nairobi milk market: A pilot survey in Kiambu District for the identification of target groups of producers. Smallholder Dairy (R&D) Project. KARI/MoA/ILRI Collaborative Dairy Research Programme, ILRI, Nairobi, Kenya. pp. 85.

Staal S., Owango M., Muriuki H., Lukuyu B., Musembi F., Bwana O., Muriuki K., Gichungu G., Omore A., Kenyanjui M., Njubi D., Baltenweck I. and Thorpe W. 1998b. Dairy systems characterisation of the Nairobi milk shed: Application of spatial and household analysis. MoA/ KARI/ILRI Collaborative Research Report. Smallholder Dairy (Research and Development) Project, Nairobi, Kenya.

Staal S.J., Kruska R., Balteweck I., Kenyanjui M., Wokabi A., Njubi D., Thornton P. and Thorpe W. 1999. Combined household and GIS analysis of smallholder production systems: An application to intensifying smallholder dairy systems in Central Kenya. Paper presented at the third international symposium on Systems Approaches for Agricultural Development (SAAD-III) held at Lima, Peru, 8–10 November 1999, National Agrarian University, La Molina, Lima, Peru.

Tangka F., Ouma E.A., Staal S.J. and Shapiro B. 1999. Women and the sustainable development of market-oriented dairying: Evidence from the highlands of East Africa. Paper presented at the International Sustainable Development Research Conference held at University of Leeds, Leeds, UK, 25–26 March 1999.

Thorpe W., Muriuki H.G., Omore A., Owango M.O. and Staal S. 2000. Dairy development in Kenya: The past, the present and the future. Paper presented at the annual symposium of the Animal Production Society of Kenya, Nairobi, Kenya, 22–23 March 2000.

Previous PageTop Of PageNext Page