3000 farmers now living what seemed an impossible dream.
The quite town of Ziwa, in Soy division at the foot of rainy Cherangany hills in Kenya’s North Rift, teems with potential dairy farming, and spawns many exciting dairy farmer success tales. But today’s tale marks achieving a 2 year dream and milestone of owning and launching a modern dairy chilling facility for bulking, chilling and marketing quality milk on behalf of over 3000 dairy farmers, while providing them with animal husbandry and financial access services.
A carnivore mood engulfs the quite village from as early as 6 am as a pickup vehicle drives through the dusty paths announcing the launch of Sirikwa Dairy limited. Children chant while running behind the pickup. Farmers and transporters riding their bicycles and motorcycles deliver milk to the chilling plant. Banks, processors and other input suppliers set up makeshift shelters in the Sirikwa dairy compound, to capitalize on the opportunity to meet the thriving community. The dairy quality specialist remains almost oblivious to the noise and music around him as he dutifully continues testing delivered milk for quality, to ensure there is no overload in bacteria, before pouring it into the 5000 litre cooler. Brookeside Dairy, a leading processor, who has a marketing contract with Sirikwa will later in the day collect the milk. One kilometer from the dairy, 34 year old Cornelius Cheruiyot, a supplier at the dairy and a model farmer takes guests around his dairy farm. His fortunes changed for the better once Sirikwa dairy begun bulking and marketing of milk. “I had one local cow and milked only 3 litres per day. Once Sirikwa started, I joined and adopted AI services, to improve my breeds. The result is two cross bred cows and 19 litres of milk per day. My income has increased, and I received training from cooperative field officers on how to manage my cows and my farm better for higher returns.”
The turning point started like this: three years ago, around 6 men and women bore the dream of adopting modern dairy technologies to increase their cattle milk production, leverage their access to market and consequently increase household income. Forming a milk farmer group was the answer to building volumes as the more the milk, the better the bargaining power, they figured. The benefits of such a group seem obvious and its objective easy to achieve, but no, not for this group. Other farmers shied away from partnering. Farmer mobilization proved harder than anticipated, “it took three months to register the first member,” recalls the chairman Mr. Phillip Kibusie. On the first day, the group collected “only 300 litres of milk”(a poor collection by the standards of the dairy rich community). The milk bulking center was under a tree, which stood on land donated by local church. Today, Sirikwa dairy collects 7000 litres per day and has established 9 other collection centers spread across Soy Division.
|Banks like Cooperative bank of Kenya were present to market and educate farmers about their products|
According to the chairman, the need for knowledge and sharing of experiences to believe and build faith in the dream was apparent. EADD’s experience in building successful farmer businesses thus, came in handy. As, “EADD, organized our visits to similar projects in the country like Siongiroi in North Rift and Kieni in Central Province of Kenya. Once we saw what other farmers had achieved, we believed that our dream could come true. The onus was on us to sell the idea of wealth creation to our neighbors,” Mr. Kibusie says. Farmer challenges like poor breeds, lack of or expensive services in animal health, access to markets and inadequate animal feeds; marked the selling point of a farmer owned company based on EADD model, which is designed to address such challenges. The officials took to the villages sensitizing farmers on the benefits. “This paid off and more and more farmers registered” offers Kibusie as he remarks, “Today as we launch, we are proud to report that we now own a modern facility (stone and brick) and a cooler and collect 7000 litres of milk per day. An year ago we invested KES 600 000 (USD 7 142) in an agrovet shop which is today valued at KES 900 000 (USD10 714). Intensive training has helped farmers understand basic business principles and slowly but surely more are practicing farming as a busines.” Today, the dairy boasts 400 cross bred heifers in its stable as compared to “less than ten” three years ago. Last year, over 1 million litres of milk was sold by the cooler to Brookeside dairy. Dr. Kiptarus, Director General in Kenya’s Ministry of Livestock Development, in underscored the importance of the dairy. He noted that it will “boost the marketing of milk on behalf of farmer cooperatives in this area which is endowed with over 100, 000 dairy cattle with a potential to produce 70 million litres annually worth Kshs. 1.5 billion.”
Sirikwa Dairies is the 19th dairy cooperative with a cooler partnering with EADD-Heifer International project, remarked Mr. Alex Kirui, Heifer International Country Director in Kenya. The company has new businesses to her growing portfolio alongside dairy on a check off system. These include solar kitting, A.I services, Agro vet services, Agent Banking (KCB) and Advances. “The company is on the way towards fulfillment of her mission statement of improving the welfare of their members by bulking, chilling and marketing high quality dairy products and provision of related services to their customers,” noted the Director General.