Milking a Profitable Commodity in Kenya

Elizabeth Wangui stands next to her cows in her newly built animal shelter.
Elizabeth Wangui stands next to her cows in her newly built animal shelter.
Vikas Ghanghas for USAID
A single mother and dairy farmer turns into an entrepreneur
“Whatever milk I could fetch, I would sell it to the local hawkers. And the hawkers would pay me whatever price they wanted to.”

July 2017—As the morning sun rays hit the Subukia village in Kenya’s Nakuru County, hundreds rise and leave their homes for daily labor. Living among them is Elizabeth Wangombe Wangui, a 47-year-old dairy farmer.

Wangui was around 19 years old when she took over the dairy farm from her father. A single mother with two small boys, she depended on her three cows to scrape together a living.

“Whatever milk I could fetch, I would sell it to the local hawkers. And the hawkers would pay me whatever price they wanted to,” says Wangui. Even on her luckiest days, she could barely manage to get 25 shillings (25 cents) per liter of milk sold.

Helpless and frustrated, Wangui in June 2015 became an active supplier of the Suka Farmers’ Cooperative Society, which is supported by the Feed the Future India Kenya Dairy Development Project. Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative, is led by USAID.

“The staff at Suka paid me a guaranteed shilling 32 [32 cents] per liter of milk, and unlike earlier, when I had to throw away the unsold milk, they purchased every liter that I brought with me,” says a smiling Wangui.

But Wangui did not stop there. She soon learned about a pilot milk processing facility in Subukia under the Feed the Future program and the opportunity it offered to enterprising farmers like her.

“Ms. Wangui enrolled herself into the program to receive training in good dairy production practices such as improving animal health and hygiene, disease management, feed and fodder requirements, and clean milking practices,” says Vikas Ghanghas, who serves as the project manager at Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services (IL&FS) Clusters.

Under the Feed the Future program, USAID and IL&FS Clusters are working together to help small and marginal dairy farmers like Wangui transform Kenya’s dairy sector by increasing milk production, improving milk quality by promoting green fodder cultivation, reducing milk wastage, and setting up milk collection centers to provide better market access to farmers.

“India has been a leader in smallholder farmer-based dairy revolution and, under this project, we are trying to replicate India’s dairy success in Kenya. Since February 2016, the project has empowered 2,800 dairy farmers, 60 percent of which are women, who have collectively improved milk collection volumes by 350 percent,” says Ghanghas.

Once she was trained and better skilled in dairy farming, Wangui soon started mobilizing funds to build a new animal shelter as demonstrated in the trainings. “In six months, I was able to put together shilling 1 million [$10,000] from my improved dairy earnings and from the monetary help that I received from my family and friends. I even expanded my dairy herd from three to 20 cows,” says Wangui, adding, “I have a big family now.”

When asked about her future plans, Wangui points in the direction of the Subukia milk processing facility and says, “They can take up to 10,000 liters of milk every day. I still have a lot of scope to grow.”

Three dairy cooperatives with a combined membership of 2,045 dairy farmers were selected to participate in the project, which runs from 2014 to 2018. The cooperatives’ farmers have increased their milk productivity through improved cattle sheds, pasture management, veterinary service delivery, artificial inseminations, and trainings on good animal management practices. Milk collection centers and vehicles and a state-of-the-art milk processing facility have helped strengthen the supply chain.

The project also organized a site visit to India for smallholder dairy farmers, local entrepreneurs, and government representatives from Nakuru County and the Kenya Dairy Board to learn about dairy innovations. Together, these interventions have contributed to an increase in the cooperatives’ milk procurement from about 800 liters to over 3,000 liters per day and an increase in the milk farm gate price (the price at the farm, without transport or marketing costs) of about 25 percent.

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Last updated: August 01, 2017

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