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Dairy farmers reap big, amidst climate change

Farmers at Ngobit Ward in Laikipia County have recorded high milk production attributed to the utilisation of smart agriculture technologies.

It came as a good deal to a local farmer who ventured into intensive dairy farming for a share of the local economic pie.

The Chairperson Ngobit Community Driven Development Committee (CDCC) and a farmer at Ngobit, James Maina, recalls the many years he herded dairy cattle but recorded low milk production.

According to Maina, the training on effective dairy practices facilitated by Kenya Climate Smart Agriculture Project (KCSAP) has changed his perception of dairy farming since he now records increased milk production, which he delivers to Laikipia Dairies Cooperative.

“Previously, my cows depended on grass, which was only available during the rainy season. Currently, having been equipped with fundamental knowledge on dairy keeping, my cows have access to food throughout the year since I conserve food through silage. The milk production per day was 10 litres but now I record up to 40 litres,” Maina said.

Friesian breed variety feed on hay for milk production (Photographs by Naomi Gesare)

Maina noted that he has benefited from breeding systems such as Artificial Insemination (AI) and currently has two quality breed calves.

The farmer added that KCSAP had funded 56 groups for the year 2020 and 2021 with at a cost of Sh23 million to cater for various projects.

“We have received over 23 million from KCSAP. The money is transferred to the CDCC account for the committee to identify groups that would benefit from the funds be it Community Interest Groups (CIGs) or Vulnerable and Marginalized Groups (VMGs),” Maina said.

The funding from KCSAP has also facilitated extensive sensitization where farmers in rural regions have been informed on effective farming techniques.

KCSAP not only informs farmers on effective farming through a private service provider but also provides a ready market. KCSAP has collaborated with Laikipia Dairies so that farmers obtain a ready market for milk at Sh41, a rate that allows farmers make a profit.

Jane Wanjiru Kigio, a member of Abandere breeders, is another farmer who has significantly benefited from the project.

Her Friesian cows seem to recognize her as she ushers us into the cowshed, greeting her with soft mooing sound. Ms Kigio soaks all that in, including the smell of the animals’ droppings.

Her passion for dairy farming increased once she underwent valuable training facilitated by KCSAP that has translated to increased milk production.

“We are working closely with KCSAP and they have helped us a lot. They have trained us and at this point we have improved our farming techniques,” Ms Kigio said.

Kigio noted that the KCSAP has come in handy in realizing her dreams of being a successful dairy farmer, since she has been supplied with a grass cutter machine that can produce huge amounts of feed for the cows.

“Before, we used to spend a lot of time on cutting grass using a panga. Now we are able to cut and store a variety of feeds for the cows,” Ms Kigio said.

Abandere Breeders has 25 members and is among twenty-one other common interest groups supported by KCSAP. To become a member of the group, one has to have at least two dairy cows.

Speaking during a site visit, the chair of Laikipia Dairies, Simon Muhenja said that they wrote a proposal to KCSAP and having agreed to collaborate with them, they received funding of Sh500, 000 that facilitated massive sensitization that saw them register more members recording an increase from 70 to 1,183 members. 

“The cooperative started as a self-help group about eight years ago with only 50 members, it then moved to a CBO and now ranks itself as one of the best paying cooperatives in Kenya,” Muhenja noted.

At the start, the cooperative only received 200 litres of milk in a day and could not gain competitive advantage.

With the help of KCSAP, Laikipia dairies has registered 420 members through Community Interest Groups (CIGs), and produces 3000-3500 litres of milk on daily basis

Muhenja added that the cooperative received 86,000 litres of milk in the month of June and sells the milk at Sh43.70 per litre to Kenya Cooperative Creameries (KCC).

However, the chairperson noted that they experience challenges such as climate change that affects milk production and lack of extensive training on dairy farming practices.

“While KCSAP has helped us increase production through training farmers, we would like to request the government to ensure that firms such as KCC do not exploit farmers by buying milk at low prices while those at the supermarket shelves double the buying price,” Muhenja said.

The chairperson said that looking into the future; they are hopeful that they will be having their own brand that will be supplying milk to Laikipia and neighbouring counties. The cooperative also aims towards venturing into cheese production.

Among other value chain projects undertaken by Kenya Climate Smart Project, include sheep keeping, chicken rearing, sorghum and beans plantation across six wards including Thingithi, Rumuruti, Olmoran, Salama, Ngobit, and Segera.

County Climate Smart Agriculture Project Coordinator, Muriithi Kiboi addressing media at his Nanyuki town office said their objective is to utilize available smart agriculture technologies to foster productivity.

“We hope to increase the productivity of agricultural projects, improve resilience and reduce the emission of greenhouse gas,” Kiboi said.

KCSAP is a government project supported by the World Bank and was initiated in 2018. Through micro projects, it is supporting 260 community development projects in the six wards in Laikipia County.

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