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Nakuru County in drive to unlock the untapped Sh. 25 billion potential in the dairy sub sector

The  Nakuru  County  government is targeting to unlock the Sh. 25 billion potential in dairy sub sector within the devolved unit  by addressing a number of challenges that have affected quality and quantity of milk produced.

The  County Executive Committee Member for Agriculture, Dr. Immaculate Njuthe Maina says last year farmers in the region earned Sh. 9.6 billion from the sale of 291 million litres of milk.

During the period Nakuru was the third highest producer of milk in the country after Kiambu and Murang’a counties.

“We have received financial support from a World Bank funded programme to tackle challenges holding back the dair y sub sector. These include limited availability of quality and affordable feeds, inadequate infrastructure, including access roads and milk cooling facilities, limited extension services, low value addition to absorb surpluses during glut and  limited access to markets and market information. The  County has 310,000 dairy animals that yield an average of 5 litres per animal. This production is far below the global average of 24.5 litres per cow per day. We are working on new strategies to be adopted by farmers to increase milk production per animal to at least 15 litres which will translate to Sh 25 billion earnings annually,” explains the CEC.

The  initiative funded by National Agricultural and Rural Inclusive Growth Project (NARIGP) is working on a strategy that  targets to have dairy cooperatives in the county come together to form a union and facilitate installation of a dairy  processing plant and a feed manufacturing units.

“It  is  envisioned  that  the  plant  will  support  farmers  to  access quality feeds and AI services as well as appropriate  finance to support transition to commercial dairy farming.

This  will make farmers earn more than the current prices that range between Sh.28 and Sh.35 per liter of milk against a  background where currently half a litre of processed milk is retailing at over Sh.50” states Dr. Njuthe.

“Enhancing milk yield per cow can be achieved by adopting better production systems, including quality artificial
insemination (AI) services. Henceforth only qualified and licensed agricultural extension officers will be allowed to
administer  AI services”, she said.

Nakuru  is  one  of  the 21 counties that are beneficiaries of the project that has been allocated Sh. 22.6 billion. It aims to increase agricultural productivity and improve food security in 420 selected wards in the county. The project is  targeting 360,000 people countrywide.

In  the  Dairy  Sub Sector, Dr. Njuthe  states the project has been rolled out in Molo, Njoro, Kuresoi South, Bahati and  Naivasha sub counties in 20 selected wards.

The  Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) Pasture specialist, Dr. Naftali Ondabu says the  county  will unlock the untapped potential in the dairy sub sector if farmers are enabled to get drought resistant, high nutrient  content and affordable fodder.

He  suggests that the devolved unit facilitates trainings in the manufacture of animal feeds and that demonstration farms  be established in strategic locations to equip dairy farmers with skills on growing, harvesting and storage of fodder to  be used during dry seasons.

“KALRO’s role in the programme is to ensure that dairy farmers are accessing quality inputs, including supplemental feeds. They  also  need better veterinary and extension services and improved pasture” asserts Dr. Ondabu.

To  address  the  milk  marketing  difficulties, the  county  is  engaging  majority  of  the producers  who  are  currently  practicing open grazing to move away from subsistence to commercial production with an aim of at least reaching the global daily average.

“Smallholder farmers have focused on the production and marketing raw milk in the informal market. Processing milk into value added products such as pasteurized milk, UHT milk, yoghurt, mala, cultured milk, cheese, butter and many others has not been considered due to lack of technology and skills.

Investing  in  better  production  technologies further involves improved feeding system thus creating more investment  opportunities along the value chain through feed production” says Dr. Njuthe.

The  Vice  Chairman to Committee on Agriculture in Nakuru County Assembly, Wilson  Mwangi said  the initiative had set  sight on international markets by ensuring production of high value milk that meets quality parameters such as right   fat and water content among others.

“Training on milk handling and value addition is of paramount importance. Most farmers in the country produce raw milk  that does not meet international standards, a factor that affects market and prices.” observes Mwangi.

Mwangi nonetheless insists that the potential may not be realized if the national government does not intervene and offer  incentives and subsides to all stakeholders in the sub sector.

“Most  importantly we need to stop cheap dairy products from neighbouring countries. The government must slap a high import  duty on dairy products that can be readily sourced locally. Tax incentives should be extended to people dealing with raw  materials used to manufacture animal feeds,” notes Mwangi.

He  laments  that  brokers have taken the sub sector hostage by encouraging sale of milk in the informal markets at low  prices. Mwangi  called out on the Kenya Dairy Board to formulate policies that will improve profitability of the sub sector  and protect the dairy farmer.

Njeri  Mbugua, a dairy farmer from Menengai within Rongai Sub County also called on the government to lower taxes on  raw  materials used to manufacture animal feeds.

She  challenged the county government to invest in training farmers on manufacture of animal feeds.

Her  colleague, Wangare Maina noted that farmers were losing millions of shillings to bogus Artificial Insemination Service  providers who did not supply the required quality breeds or served animals poorly leading to failure of the animals to  conceive.

She  urged the County government to extend grants to dairy farmers.

The  National Agricultural and Rural Inclusive Growth Project (NARIGP) County Director, Peter  Githunguri said the
initiative  is  exploring setting up of milk processing centers that will bring together all the dairy farmers to act as a
platform for advancing their needs as well as create more capacity to enhance and increase milk production for the market.

“Smallholders  in the County travel long distances to markets to sell raw milk at low prices to middlemen or local traders  a  situation which reduces their negotiating power and further excludes women from the market.

Our  work on the dairy value chain has been successful in demonstrating good practice in the commercialization of dairy  farming in terms of improving productivity, organizing producers, strengthening farmers’ capacity, and linking farmers  with formal markets. The intervention has reduced poverty among smallholder farmers, particularly women and landless  people,” says Githunguri.

By  Anne  Mwale/Dennis  Rasto

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