Originally published on November 7, 2014.
Dairy farmers face enormous challenges in Kenya’s Central Province. The region experiences two rainy seasons that muddy the roadways, and complicate milk transport. Other times of the year, pervasive drought yields insufficient water. Access to electricity is typically infrequent for smallholder farmers, while high rates of illiteracy further impedes adoption. But despite all these challenges, the country holds great potential for economic growth by developing its dairy sector.
The USAID Kenya Dairy Sector Competitiveness Program (KDSCP) is designed to help smallholder farmers overcome challenges, and aims to increase household income from the sale of quality milk throughout the country. KDSCP is a five-year program made possible by the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and implemented by Land O’Lakes International Development. The program ultimately aims to help transform the Kenyan dairy industry into a globally competitive, regional market leader.
Our incomes have increased and now we can afford to hire a permanent herdsman and two day workers, and still send our girls to school.
Jospeh Maina Mugi, known as Maina, and his wife Beth Wangari, are just two of the more than 220,000 households who have benefited from the KDSCP program – and they have become model representatives for their peers. “A few years ago, we decided to embrace dairy as our main source of income and set about to learn as much as we could together,” explained Beth. “So we got involved in the KDSCP program in 2009.”
“Together, we have three daughters, and two of them are in formal education – thanks to the dairy cow,” proclaimed Maina. With their vision in tow, Maina and Beth participated in many KDSCP activities, including farmer exchange visits, and several capacity building trainings like feed/fodder production, appropriate feeding regimes, and feed conservation.
Beth Wangari and Joseph Maina Mugi
They constructed a hay barn and zero grazing unit, and adopted a semi-zero grazing on their four-acre farm in Kinangop milkshed in Central Province. In combination with improved milk handling, the new feeding set-up for their cows has doubled milk production from 20 to 50 liters per day. “Our incomes have increased and now we can afford to hire a permanent herdsman and two day workers, and still send our girls to school,” said Beth.
Now, they have rented other plots from neighboring farmers to plant fodder crops like oats, maize and turnips, which will enable them to care for a larger herd. “We hope to get electricity someday that will help us even more. Then we could use milking machines,” stated Maina.
In 2011, they won second prize for best overall milk production from the Kitiri Dairy Farmers Co-op Society, by selling over 4,200 liters of milk. Their farm has also been identified as a demonstration plot for farmer field schools by USAID KDSCP, which will continue to be implemented by Land O’Lakes through 2013. “It would be so amazing for our farm to become a showcase of dairy production – a real example for other farmers like us in Kenya who used to struggle to bring milk to the market and earn cash. This program has truly changed our lives,” exclaimed Maina.