Enterprise

Farmers milking a fortune from dairy self-help group

GETHI

Mr John Gethi, Brookside Daily General Manager for Milk Procurement and Extension Services. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Summary

  • When 70 dairy farmers formed a self-help group in 2014 little did they know that a few years down the line they would be running a thriving agribusiness.
  • The farmers started supply as little as five litres of milk to the Brookside Dairy Ltd under the umbrella of Kuresoi Dairy Farmers Self–Help Group.

When 70 dairy farmers formed a self-help group in 2014 little did they know that a few years down the line they would be running a thriving agribusiness.

The farmers started supply as little as five litres of milk to the Brookside Dairy Ltd under the umbrella of Kuresoi Dairy Farmers Self–Help Group.

Six years later, the farmers’ effort has paid off as they get better returns and now own a modern cooling station which comprises two tanks that can handle up to 5,000 litres of milk. They also have a standby generator supplied by the processor to mitigate power outage, boosting the farmers' output

The farmers also bought land where the cooling plant is located.

"We started by delivering about 600 litres of milk daily and this has increased to 5,000 litres," says Samuel Ruto, the group chairperson.

Today the farmers who have increased to 350 have no worries about the quality of their produce as Brookside has seconded qualified staff to monitor the quality of their milk.

Mr Ruto notes that with the new cooling station, the farmers are saving a substantial amount of money as they are no longer renting space to keep their equipment.

"We're saving Sh20,000 every month which we used to pay as rent," he says.

"We bought this land which is about half an acre in February last year and we started the construction work which has cost us about Sh5 million."

Mr Ruto says the group is now planning to launch Artificial Insemination (AI) services to enable their members to get high yielding cows.

"In future, we are also looking forward to restocking our veterinary shop where our members will be able to buy livestock and animal feeds at a subsidised price and pay at the end of the month," adds Mr Ruto.

The self-help group has employed five workers.

"Milk has transformed our lives. Milk has changed our farming style. Milk has made me a proud owner of a motorbike that is earning me an extra shilling," says Alfred Kering, of the group members.

As one way of appreciating their farmers, Brookside awarded them Sh1.6 million for their steady supply of milk at the cooling station.

However, the farmers say one of the main challenges they face is the fluctuating prices of farm gate prices.

Patricia Koech, who is a board member of the Kuresoi group, says women are big winners in the project.

"We are now assured of quality milk and better prices as Brookside has assured us of maintaining the cooling station and as women groups we will be able to borrow money from microfinance and pay in good time as the payment for our produce is promptly paid by the processor," says Ms Koech.

Brookside Director of milk procurement and manufacturing, John Gethi says the cooling station is a major milestone to the farmers.

"As a processor, we shall continue to honour our payment to our farmers on time without any delay and support Kuresoi Dairy Farmers Self- Help Group boost their milk production," notes Mr Gethi, adding that Brookside will keep training dairy farmers through field days and organising more demonstration farms in 2021.

"We want this self-help group which is operating in 11 locations to double its milk production to 30,000 litres per year," says Mr Gethi.

Brookside, he adds, had by December last year paid dairy farmers in Nakuru County over Sh253 million and more than half of that money will benefit farmers in Kuresoi. Countrywide the processor had paid suppliers over Sh4 billion.

Mr Gethi says despite the pandemic, Nakuru has increased its milk production by 10 percent and Kuresoi Dairy Farmers Self-Help Group has played a major role in increasing the production.

He says self-help groups are a key pillar of the dairy industry as they help boost production.

The Kuresoi scheme is banking on high fat content of its milk at four percent to continue making good earnings.

"We reward farmers because of quality milk and the price will be increased depending on the quality," says Mr Gethi.