Githunguri Dairy Farmers Co-operative Society (GDFCS) Limited, the makers of the Fresha brand of milk and milk products, has turned 60. Surprised?
Many people are, but yes, this rural co-operative-based company that has gained traction and reputation across borders was started by a group of 31 small-scale dairy farmers in Githunguri in 1961. In those days, they would produce an average of just less than 200 litres per day.
This position has since changed. GDFCS has grown to a registered membership of over 26,000, with current daily production of 240,000 litres.
The active members stand at 11,000, meaning that on average, each of them delivers 22 litres of milk daily, compared to five litres per day per member 60 years back. This success is attributed to innovation and supportive stakeholders.
At the start, the few litres of milk delivered by farmers every day were sold to hotels in the then-upcoming township of Ruiru and its environs. As raw milk production grew, other markets were sought through milk processors of that time.
The business of bulking milk and subsequently selling through processors continued for almost 40 years until 2004 when a fresh milk production plant was commissioned.
Over the years, through continual improvement and value addition, other products such as Long Life milk, Yoghurt, Fermented milk, Ghee, Butter, Cream and the Fresha Purified Drinking Water, have been introduced to the market.
The company can now confidently pride itself as the “Home of Real Farm Freshness” through the flagship household brands of Fresha and Zito.
One of the key commitments of GDFCS is the upholding of values and the vision that brought together the 31 members to form the Society. This attribute remains the backbone that keeps the company going.
GDFCS milk is 100 percent fresh, and it is delivered to consumers within six hours of getting it from the source. Customers have trusted the company to offer healthy quality products, hence the reason it has achieved the 60-year mark. This 60-year celebration is dedicated to them.
The core objective of the company is to enrich and empower its stakeholders. Farmers’ welfare is taken seriously.
The organisation remains committed to improving raw milk prices and ensure timely payment throughout the 60-year journey. This has built a lot of trust from farmers, hence a very strong foundation of any co-operative organisation.
The Society’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is another highlight. GDFCS has a strict policy on environmental and community wellbeing. It is the main sponsor of the Ruiru Dam Tree planting project. Over 20,000 trees have been planted since 2012 when the project was initiated.
Every year, GDFCS sponsors at least five needy pupils who meet the threshold to join secondary schools.
The organisation also visits charity homes and spends the day with the hosts. These are only examples of the various other CSR engagements it undertakes, and indeed among the activities that build mutually supportive relationships with communities.
Success will never be realised without challenges.
The Society has surmounted a few obstacles here and there. For instance, sometime back, a number of members felt aggrieved and the route they took to have their grievances heard threatened the Society’s going concern.
The matter was resolved and GDFCS now provides forums where members air their views freely. This has nurtured cordial relationships and understanding; a very vital recipe for any co-operative society.
Many co-operative societies have failed in the past, owing to poor leadership. At GDFCS, members’ welfare, loyalty and trust are primary.
The Board of Directors (BOD) and staff culture is pivoted towards consistently ensuring farmers’ wellbeing is prioritised. The leadership listens and works with members to ensure their needs are well taken care of.
The Society’s culture is collaborative. This has enhanced cohesion among BOD and staff for increased performance and productivity.
This is driven by continually supporting members to produce maximum milk per farm so that they too reap optimum benefits from the Society.
The Society is steadfast in its promise to stick to the business objectives and achieve further growth.
The 60-year milestone serves just as a moment in a journey that is destined for greater prosperity and more robust growth.
The Society promises to lift the livelihoods of members even further, having tremendously transformed many small-scale farmers into some of the highest milk producers in the country.
Today, the Society pays out over Ksh300 million every month for farmers’ produce. But that’s not just it. The Society supports farmers’ productivity through an ‘all under one roof’model, achieved by providing essential services for dairy farming.
Specifically, members enjoy the following: Timely collection of raw milk facilitated by many buying stations and cooling centres; Artificial Insemination services; provision of animal feeds and supplements; and financial support through the GDC Sacco, whose majority shareholders are also members.
Over several years, GDFCS has maintained some of the most competitive prices for raw milk, a position it commits to continue upholding.
These attributes have made it possible for the Fresha brand to continue expanding its range of products and markets. The products are available across the country.
Fresha and Zito brands command an estimated market share of 15 percent. This has been achieved through consistent quality products, assuring value to households.
GDFCS assures stakeholders that the vision of being a world-class producer of dairy products is not lost. That’s the direction it is headed.
I call upon youths to embrace dairy farming as a business venture, as it has proved to be profitable.
Mr Kinyanjui is the Chairman of GDFCS, while Mr Muriithi is the General Manager