Traversing the vast Kilifi County, you realise a feature that is common in many households - one or two dairy cows in a shed.
Dairy farming is gaining momentum in the county thanks to a project being implemented jointly between the county government and a community-based organistaion (CBO) known as Sabaki Community Development Project.
One of the initiative’s beneficiaries is Dama Gabriel from Kibokoni village. The mother of four is a member of Nyota Women group, a ten-member outfit, started in the village to improve the living standards of the people.
“We formed this group in March this year when we received a dairy cow from the county’s department of agriculture and livestock. Our expectation is that this cow will give us milk in the near future and be able to sustain our livelihoods,” she says.
In the nearby Mtangani village, Enterprise meets Zaituni Isa, a chairperson of the 25-member Amkeni Mtangani Women Group, which mainly comprises small scale farmers.
“Our hope is that we will be able to sell milk and sustain our families when these two cows start to produce,” she notes.
Group treasurer Asha Kitsao says the project will support them in their endavour to meet various needs of their families and generally transforms their livelihoods.
“We wrote a proposal on the dairy project and sent it to the county government. We were happy when our proposal was accepted. It is my hope that this project will make a positive impact in our lives,” she says.
Rebbeca Wanyama, a member of the group, says the dairy project is timely adding that they bank on it to boost their standard of living.
“This project has made us busy and productive. We had other activities before but now everything is about this project. Our hope is that each member will get one cow and that will enable us educate our children and meet other needs,” maintains Ms Wanyama.
Mitangani village elder Stephen Ponda says the project is godsend to the community and commended Sabaki for facilitating its implementation.
“I want to thank the CBO that pushed for this project to be implemented here. We now have two cows but our request is that we be considered for more allocations,” says Mr Ponda.
Charo Kahindi, the chairman of the Sabaki Community Development Project (SCDP), the CBO spearheading the project, says the dairy project has brought hope to many farmers in the region.
“We currently run about eight projects, with dairy being one of them. We have received 50 dairy cows from the department of livestock at the county government,” Mr Kahindi says.
He said the cows were distributed among various farmer groups that are under the CBO.
“The aim of this project is to end poverty in Sabaki. Poverty has taken its toll on our people in this region,” he laments.
“We received Friesian and Ayrshire breeds which have the capacity to produce 15 litres a day. With a litre going for Sh80, it means a cow can give up to Sh1,200 daily,” says Mr Katembo.
He says they are currently expecting another 80 dairy cows this financial year, adding that they will soon launch Agri-Sabaki dairy which will serve as a milk marketing place.
“Our CBO has about 300 farmers, drawn from the entire Sabaki ward. We gave out 30 cows to women groups and 20 cows were given to other groups,” adds Mr Kahindi.
Edward Dele, a member of the county assembly for Sabaki ward, says the Sh10 million dairy cow project is aimed at helping to end poverty in the area.
“What prompted me to push for this project was to change the lives of the locals. So during the allocation of county projects, the locals asked for dairy cows and I did not hesitate because I know its importance,” notes Mr Dele.
Another 300 residents, he says, have already written their proposals seeking to benefit from the project.
“We have already asked the livestock department to consider purchasing 130 dairy cows worth Sh24 million. With that number plus the other 50 dairy cows it means in two years we can start our own milk processing plant because we will be having plenty of milk,” says Mr Dele.
Kilifi County Agriculture and Livestock Chief Officer, Fredrick Kaingu says for the last six years, the devolved government has introduced dairy breeds which are resistant to livestock diseases and climatic changes.
“The directorate of livestock has also been able to procure and distribute 240 dairy goats to at least 70 women groups in all the seven sub-counties,” he says.
“In the 2015/16 financial year, we procured 65 dairy cows which were distributed to farmers across the county.”
He adds that farmers in Ruruma, Rabai received 30 dairy cattle which have been instrumental in boosting milk production, strengthening the dairy sector in the county, and improving nutrition in the arid zones of Kaloleni.
“Since this project was started, we have been able to distribute 336 animals and the number of beneficiaries is about 200 farmers,” says the officer.
The department is currently building milk schemes — centres where farmers will be delivering their milk — across the subcounties, in the entire county.
“These milk schemes are across the subcounties. In Rabai, we have completed one milk scheme. In Malindi there is one in Gongoni, in Gede we have Manyeso Dairy that is being completed,” he says.
“In Marafa and Tezo we have also milk schemes. In total we have about six milk schemes.”
Mr Kaingu adds that the county has consistently conducted annual vaccinations against a range of diseases such as foot and mouth disease, rabies, lumpy skin, black quarter, anthrax, contagious caprine pleuropneumonia, newcastle, gumboro and fowl typhoid.