The Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock has announced a Sh2.2 billion plan to buy coolers for distribution to 35 milk-producing counties.
Julius Kiptarus, the director of Livestock Production, said up to 350 coolers with a capacity to store 3,000 litres will be distributed to groups of farmers with the capacity to produce at least 500 litres of milk per day.
Speaking during presentation of one such milk cooler to farmers at Ugweri in Embu County, Dr Kiptarus termed the plan as a government ‘intervention’ aimed at minimising wastage and boosting dairy farming.
“It is government support to farmers. They will only build the premises and install water and electricity. The tanks will go a long way towards ensuring they have market access and quality will be good,” said Dr Kiptarus.
Agriculture is a devolved function, whose management and funding falls under county governments as per the Constitution. It was not clear whether the beneficiary counties will re-reimburse the national government money used in the purchase of the coolers.
Dr Kiptarus said “the tanks will belong to the farmers’ groups on behalf of the ministry.”
Up to 20 coolers will be imported from Poland every two weeks until the entire 350 units are delivered.
Farmers in the targeted counties will be required to set up a facility where the cooler will be installed, connect it with three phase electricity and running water and ensure it was secure.
The ministry will then train managers and other personnel management of the coolers.
The ministry has already distributed coolers in Uasin Gishu, Trans Nzoia, Meru, Nandi, Kiambu and Kirinyaga counties in the ongoing first phase of the plan.
“The coolers will reduce post-harvest losses, especially milk produced in the evening. Once they fill the tanks, processors will collect the milk for transport to the factories,” Dr Kiptarus said.
He said other interventions were also being enhanced to ensure livestock farming remains a profitable venture. He said the Kenya Meat Commission (KMC) and Agriculture Development Corporation (ADC) had received Sh450 million and Sh250 million respectively for livestock offtake during drought.
Last season, the Department of Agriculture started supplying food supplements and drugs to livestock in drought hit areas to minimise deaths as a stop-gap measure.
Plans are also under way to plant at least 10,000 acres of irrigated grass in various arid and semi-arid counties to be used during dry spells.
Dr Kiptarus said they had also constructed 30 strategic hay sheds that can store 50,000 bales of hay, to ensure no livestock died due to lack of pasture in case of drought.
“We want to reduce the effects of drought on animals as an intervention and enhance food security. We are rolling out capacity building to counties where we will grow the grass,” he said.