Dairy farming = ‘dairy education’: The sector that is educating Kenya’s children – filmed story

This 3:25-minute film shares how keeping cows has enabled Margaret Muchina, a dairy farmer from central Kenya, to support and educate her four children, who include Edward Kimani, who sat for his high school exam in 2010 and emerged as one of the country’s best students.

This single mother from Kenya’s Kiambu District started keeping dairy cows on her 2-acre farm in 1985. Her regular dairy income, mostly through daily milk sales, has been critical in enabling her to support her family, including the schooling of her children. Her dairy income is now supporting Kimani’s education at the University of Nairobi, where he is studying for a bachelor’s degree in geology.

Between 1997 and 2005, Margaret was one of many Kenyan farmers who participated in an award-winning Smallholder Dairy Project that carried out research to help improve the country’s smallholder, and largely informal, dairy sector, which trades mostly in ‘raw ‘ (unpasteurized) milk and was then being more harassed than supported by regulatory authorities.

The Smallholder Dairy Project supported a move towards towards a more favourable policy environment that paved the way for significant increases in the number of raw milk traders in the country, which helped milk producers like Margaret sell more milk leading to wider economy wide benefits for small-scale farmers.

Like many other Kenyans keeping one or two dairy cows to help them feed their families and send their children to school, Margaret Muchina is grateful to the Smallholder Dairy Project for information on best farm management and milk handling practices. Mrs Muchina now operates her small dairying with greater freedom and with new support from her government.

The Smallholder Dairy Project was led by Kenya’s Ministry of Livestock and implemented by the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

Find out more about the Smallholder Dairy Project

ILRI’s current work in dairying focuses on value chain development in Tanzania. Read more here.

Staff of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and many other CGIAR centres and research programs will be discussing the successes of Africa’s agriculture, including how its livestock sector can help achieve food security in the continent, at the 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW6) in Accra, Ghana. This event is being hosted by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) and the Government of Ghana and runs from Monday–Saturday, 15–20 Jul 2013.

Check out this blog next week for more stories from the 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week.

Kenya livestock ‘on show’: A thriving dairy farm, a breeders show and a national resource for improved genetics

Participants at last week’s (26-28 June 2013) Africa Livestock Conference and Exhibition (ALiCE2013) were offered field visits to Kenyan livestock farmers, producers and industry experts in and around Nairobi. Staff of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) took this opportunity to visit a dairy farm, a livestock breeders’ show and a livestock genetics resource centre.

Tassells Farm

ALiCE2013: Dairy cows

Dairy cows in Tassells Farm in Ruiru, near Nairobi (photo credit: ILRI/Alexandra Jorge).

One of the visits was to Tassells Farm, a dairy smallholding owned by husband and wife Kenyan farmers Moses Muturi and Susan Kasinga in Ruiru, just north of Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. Muturi and Kasinga started dairy farming, separately, when they were young, after seeing the many benefits of selling milk from other farmers who were able to take their children to good schools and live comfortably from dairy incomes.

When they married and joined their assets (16 animals), they were determined to succeed as dairy farmers and committing themselves to learning all they could about the dairy business. Today, some 16 years later, what began as a fairly small-scale dairy farm is now a thriving dairy business, with nearly 400 cows kept on five farms across Kenya. On their three-quarter-acre farm in Ruiru that ILRI visited, this couple’s visible passion for their family, their community and their dairy cows is an inspiration.

On this farm, the couple manages 70 Holstein-Friesian cows in a ‘zero-grazing’ system with the help of four farm workers. Apart from daily milking, the farm also breeds and sells high-grade dairy cattle.

‘We had little knowledge of dairy farming when we started’, says Kasinga, ‘but we gained experience by observing successful farmers, what they do and how they do it; we learned how to make the right decisions’, she says.

Their 5 farms produce about 3000 litres of milk each day.

‘On this farm, we produce 15 to 25 litres of milk per cow, about 1000 litres in total. We sell this milk to the Brookside Dairy, says Muturi, who says the following factors have been critical for their success.

Choosing and improving breeds: This is the first step towards getting cows that are well adapted to the farm environment, which guarantees high milk yields.

High-quality feeds: These should be affordable but also of good quality. The couple maintain a barn full of hay. They also grow forage and buy hay cheaply during the rainy season (sometimes by offering to cut the grass in their neighbours fields). Muturi says it’s important for dairy farmers to buy high-quality feeds and not store them for too long, which lowers their nutritional value. Their cows consume 30-32 kilos of hay each day in addition to molasses, concentrate feeds and mineral supplements. It’s crucial also, he says, to have an adequate supply of water and to collect grasses from areas free of parasites.

Managing diseases: This includes ensuring appropriate veterinary support and learning about animal diseases (they have lost 40 cows to foot-and-mouth disease). The farm now has in place a strict and regular de-worming regime, which, they say, seems to control 70% of diseases. Access to the farm is also restricted to prevent contamination.

Capacity development: Ensuring farm workers are educated about animal management and farm operations has also been key to their success. Workers from other farms now regularly visit their farm to learn with and from them.

‘Taking advantage of economies of scale is very important in the dairy business’, says Muturi. He suggests a minimum of 10 cows as a starting point for small-scale dairy farmers who want to move into wider-scale milk production and sales. ‘The more animals a farmer has’, he says, ‘the better their chance of negotiating better prices for feeds and veterinary services, increasing their profit margins.’

In future, the couple hopes to expand their business through some ‘added value’ ventures and to join like-minded farmers in setting up a milk processing facility.

Kenya Livestock Breeders Show & Sale

ALiCE2013: Field visit to Livestock Breeders Show

Dairy cows at the Kenya Livestock Breeders Show & Sale (photo credit: ILRI/Paul Karaimu).

Held 26-28 Jun 2013 at Nairobi’s Jamhuri Park, the Kenya Livestock Breeders Show & Sale is an annual event in Kenya’s livestock sector calendar that brings together livestock breeders and industry players from across the country to exchange information in seminars, presentations and demonstrations. The event also doubles as an animal auction. This year’s exhibits included breeds from well-known ranches in Kenya, such as Ol Pejeta and Solio, north of Mt Kenya, and an association of goat breeders from Meru, east of the mountain.

Kenya Animal Genetic Resources Centre

ALiCE2013: Field visit to Kenya Animal Genetic Research Centre

One of the bulls at the Kenya Animal Genetic Resources Centre (photo credit: ILRI/Paul Karaimu)

The Kenya Animal Genetic Resources Centre is located on a 200-acre piece of land in Nairobi’s lower Kabete area. Started in 1946 by the Kenya Government, the centre produces and distributes bull semen for use by the country’s livestock farmers. With time, the centre’s mandate has grown to include providing artificial insemination (AI) training to farmers and supplying equipment for AI services in the country.

‘We also serve as a genebank for livestock tissues, semen and DNA of all the important livestock and emerging livestock breeds in Kenya,’ said Henry Wamukuru, the centre’s CEO.

Currently, more than 120 Ayrshire, Guernsey, Holstein-Friesian, Sahiwal and Boran bulls are reared at the centre to supply semen for the country’s AI needs and for export to other countries in Africa and the Middle East. The centre works closely with Kenya’s livestock ministry and the Department of Veterinary Services to improve national herds and productivity.

About the conference
ALiCE is the largest convergence of stakeholders in the livestock sector in Africa. This is a platform specifically aimed at stimulating trade in livestock and livestock products in Africa and beyond and facilitating technology and knowledge transfer and sharing. The event brings together producers, processors and traders of livestock and livestock products and suppliers of technology, solutions and services in the entire value chain.

This post was written by Alexandra Jorge and Paul Karaimu.

Read other ILRI news stories from the ALiCE2013 conference.

Livestock present Africa with huge – ‘right now!’ – opportunities for food, prosperity, environment

Attention entrepreneurs: Your livestock business is growing–but only in Africa and other developing regions

Milk markets as ‘the great equalizer’ in East Africa?

Making agriculture profitable for poor farmers builds self-sufficiency

A dairy farmer in Kenya. Incorporating informal milk producers and traders into the country’s formal milk markets is improving the welfare of the poor (photo credit: Flickr/Gates Foundation).

Remarkably, more than 80 per cent of the milk produced and sold in Kenya comes from small-scale players, typically farmers raising one or two dairy cows on small plots of land and milk hawkers plying their trade on bicycles on streets and in villages.

The fast-growing dairy sector in this East African country could help tens of thousands of people climb out of poverty. But this will require supporting small-scale milk producers and traders in gradually entering the country’s formal milk markets.

Until recently, Kenya’s informal milk producers and traders were harassed rather than supported by officials because they were unregulated and were perceived to be a threat to public health.

A chapter in a new book, Towards priority actions for market development for African farmers, describes how Kenya’s small milk producers and sellers are being integrated into formal dairy markets. Authors Amos Omore and Derek Baker, from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), say that what was needed was ‘recognizing and embracing’ the big contributions of dairy’s informal producers and traders and the potential role played by the informal milk markets in fighting poverty. According to the researchers, the removal of policy barriers to allow price-based competition to govern milk trade is enabling this informal dairy industry to significantly improve the welfare of the poor.

Using lessons and examples from a highly collaborative research and development Smallholder Dairy Project, the authors point out that training and certifying small-scale milk traders helps draw the informal milk producers and traders into a more ‘formal’ trading environment. This training also raises consumer confidence by improving and guaranteeing the quality of milk produced for market. With this training, which also teaches business and entrepreneurial skills, the small market players are increasing their incomes as well as milk consumption among poor communities.

‘This dairy project was instrumental in bringing about “mind-set and policy changes” and an impact on the profits made by milk producers in Kenya,’ say Omore and Baker. ‘It also provided a new model of incorporating these small producers into the formal sector.’

Carried out between 1997 and 2005, the Smallholder Dairy Project was led by Kenya’s Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries Development and implemented by ILRI and the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute. It was funded by the UK Department for International Development.

Kenya’s dairy industry, one of the largest in Africa, is supported by over 1.8 million mostly small-scale cattle producers who at the time of implementing the Smallholder Dairy Project supplied over 86 per cent of the country’s milk through direct milk sales from producers to consumers and from dairy farmer groups and over 40,000 small-scale farmers.

The chapter argues that small-scale milk traders trained and certified by the Kenya Dairy Board improved their hygienic practices in milk production and handling. These efforts have brought about ‘direct and sustainable benefits’ for dairy-dependent livelihoods, including making more milk available in the market and higher prices. More licensed small-scale vendors now to operate in the country contributing to more competitive prices that encourage farmers to produce more milk.

The success of the dairy project in mainstreaming Kenya’s the informal milk producers into Kenya’s dairy industry led to a revision of the country’s licensing processes, which then began to start recognizing these informal milk sellers. A 2004 dairy policy change paved the way for significant increases in the number of traders adopting milk testing methods, greater enforcement and compliance in milk quality control and an on-going regional harmonization of dairy policies and standards aiming to transform informal milk markets in Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda along the lines of the Smallholder Dairy Project in Kenya.

For the tens of thousands of small milk producers in Kenya, these policy changes have made a great difference. Evidence suggest that without the Smallholder Dairy Project, these benefits would have taken another two decades to come to small-scale dairy sector players.

Read the full chapter (part of section 4):

http://mahider.ilri.org/bitstream/handle/10568/16491/AGRA-ILRI-Section4.pdf

Download the whole book:

http://mahider.ilri.org/handle/10568/16491

For more information about the Smallholder Dairy Project visit: http://www.smallholderdairy.org/default.htm