Tucked away on the outskirts of Eldama Ravine town in Baringo County is the Sabatia Farmer’s Co-operative Society.
The facility, established in 1963 by white settlers, has stood the test of time, collecting and marketing milk from farmers in the area.
“This co-operative society started with 658 members in 1963 and now its membership has grown to 3,000,” says Rose Maiyo, the facility’s manager.
Ms Maiyo discloses that the land on which the society sits on was initially a satellite scheme owned by white settlers.
“As the white settlers returned to their home countries, they decided to sell this land to locals in form of a loan,” she says.
“So to raise the money, the locals decided to start a co-operative society, which would generate revenue to pay back the loan,” she adds.
Ms Maiyo says the co-operative society, located 500 metres from the busy Eldama Ravine-Nakuru Road, is an integral part of the area’s narrative on efforts to improve standards of living.
Apart from collecting milk, the co-operative offers farmers soft loans, as well as extension and agrovet services.
“Our farmers can borrow loans and take products from our agrovet and then later pay for them using their milk proceeds,” she says.
“We also offer extension services, feeds conservation, animal treatment and management.” Members are also trained in groups and at farm levels on how they can obtain optimum production from their animals. Ms Maiyo says the society, with an annual turnover of Sh96 million, has employed 21 staff directly and 11 others indirectly. “We are happy that we are impacting the lives of area residents,” she says.
The society also engages in value addition, a project they launched this year. They now make their own yoghurt — vanilla and strawberry flavours — and fermented milk.
“Through value addition, our farmers are able to earn more than when they just sell raw milk. Farmers’ incomes have nearly doubled thanks to value addition,” she says.
Alex Kiprop, a member of the co-operative, says the society has helped him educate his children and put food on the table.
The society, he notes, has been instrumental to him in obtaining extension services. “Once in a while, the society takes us farmers in an exchange programme where we learn from other farmers and experts,” he says.
Peter Kemboi, who lives a few metres from the facility, says Sabatia Farmer’s Co-operative has helped them get good prices for their products.
Ms Maiyo says that the society is composed of three schemes (zones), which have been allocated numbers 101, 102 and 103.
“Each scheme has three board members and one supervisory committee member whose role is to manage the society,” she says.
“We collect 11,000 litres of milk daily during peak seasons and as low as 3,000 during low seasons,” she adds. The firm uses motorbikes to collect milks from farmers, a means she says is both economical and efficient.
“We used to collect our milk from farmers by tractors but that was costly,” she says. In 2018, the co-operative received a trophy from the Ministry of Co-operatives for effective collection of milk.
“After the milk is collected from the farmers, it is weighed, tested and farmer’s details recorded instantaneously before being transferred to the coolers,” she says.
The milk is sold to the New Kenya Co-operative Creameries (New KCC), local residents and in neighbouring counties. “We have one satellite cooler at Solian where farmers’ milk in the areas are deposited,” Ms Maiyo told Enterprise.
She says they are now awaiting transport licence from the County Government of Nakuru to enable them distribute their products to various supermarkets and shops in the region.
Mrs Maiyo says despite their successes, the facility faces some challenges. One of such setbacks is caused by farmers who sell their milk to hawkers, denying the facility sufficient deliveries. Another problem is lack of feeds during the dry season. Also, although the co-operative society has 3,000 members only 1,700 are active.