Connecting Youth to Dairy Farming

Originally published on November 7, 2014.

Youth in Kenya’s Central and Rift Valley Regions are now taking part in dairy farming and learning how to support their families through this increasingly competitive industry, something that was not so easy before the USAID Kenya Dairy Sector Competitiveness Program (KDSCP). Land O’Lakes International Development, which implemented the program, knew from the start that it was essential to engage Kenya’s youth. Many dairy farmers in Kenya are aging, and without external support and encouragement, there has been a growing disconnect between youth, ages 20-35, and the elder generation when it comes farming.

Youth will also play a critical role in maintaining Kenya’s competitiveness in the dairy industry. Over one-third of Kenya’s population is 18 to 35 years old. When the current generation of dairy farmers retires from the industry because of age or health status, it is up to Kenya’s youth to take on the responsibilities of dairy farming. KDSCP enabled youth to gain confidence in their dairy management skills, while earning additional income in the process. In 2012, KDSCP worked with members of the Kitiri Dairy Cooperative Society (DCS) in Kinangop to develop a proposal for a Youth Fund. With support from the International Labour Organization (ILO), which awarded 1.5 million KES (US $17,900) to Kitiri, the fund started providing grants to youth that helped them purchase a cow, receive hands-on training and jump start their dairy careers. Members also contributed to the fund by raising an additional 750,000 KES (US $9,000).

This initiative targets sons and daughters of Kitiri DCS members as a way to pass-on knowledge about dairy management and teach youth the skills necessary to make a living out of dairy. To qualify for a grant from the Youth Fund, potential clients must demonstrate a keen interest in dairy and seek approval for their participation from the Kitiri DCS Management Committee. After going through a vetting process to ensure applicants have the drive to learn about dairy farming, clients use funds to purchase a dairy cow. They also commit to selling milk through the cooperative, which enables Kitiri DCS to recover the loan amount through a check-off system when paying farmers for the milk deliveries. So far, 90 people have benefited from the Youth Fund, while nearly as many are on a waiting list to take part in the initiative. Kitiri DCS members have also noticed an increase in their membership since the launch of the Youth Fund.

Near the Uganda border in the Trans Nzoia milk shed, the Tarakwa Cooperative Society (SACCO) is also offering credit to women and youth members. To qualify for a loan, potential clients are required to save their shares with SACCO for a six-month period, and afterwards they can receive a loan for up to three times the share they originally put up front. Members with dairy cattle are required to deliver their milk to the SACCO, which keeps track of their deliveries and recover their loan from these proceeds. Clients who do not own cows make a monthly payment instead. These loans are helping clients invest in productive assets.

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