Potential of dairy societies: A story of transformation

Kaptama Dairy Farmers Cooperative

Kaptama Dairy Farmers Cooperative receives inputs from an agrovet.

Photo credit: Pool

In Mt Elgon Sub-County, Bungoma County, Kaptama Dairy Farmers Cooperative Society is a testament of the resilience and ingenuity of rural communities.

Formed with a mission to uplift members’ welfare and economic prospects, this producer organisation started the odyssey that was fraught with challenges and opportunities.

Kaptama Dairy Farmers Cooperative Society weathered a fair share of tribulations.

Beset by dwindling milk production and mounting financial losses by 2018, many of its 1,260 members even thought of abandoning dairy farming for other ventures.

Unsustainable burden

The root of their problems lay in a myriad of factors – from the absence of adequate milk storage facilities and quality feeds to the dearth of veterinary services and reliable transport options.

For these rural farmers, the hard and long journey to Eldoret and Kitale in pursuit of essential inputs became an unsustainable burden, draining their resources and resolve.

Kaptama Dairy Farmers Co-op chairman, Ndiwa Kipnesty, reflects on the tough and rough journey members have endured.

“Our cooperative society was plagued by mismanagement for many years, pushing it to the brink of dissolution. It happened time and again,” Mr Kipnesty recounts.

 “Many of our members sought solace in alternative farming ventures as optimism became distant.”

Sh5 million grant

Yet, even as dispair was taking root, hope emerged in the form of the National Agricultural and Rural Inclusive Growth Project (NARIGP).

In July 2019, when NARIGP extended a helping hand to Kaptama Dairy Farmers Cooperative, members seized the opportunity to rewrite their destiny.

With determination, cooperative members crafted a proposal, pleading for support to rejuvenate the ailing dairy value chain in Mt Elgon.

The farmers’ plea did not fall on deaf ears.

With a Sh5 million grant from the project, the Kaptama Dairy Cooperative Society embarked on a renewal and revitilising journey.

With every penny judiciously accounted for, the co-op members mobilised hundreds of new farmers to join their ranks, invested in cutting-edge artificial insemination (AI) gadgets to bolster local breeds.

The coooperative also procured a fleet of motorcycles to revolutionise the transport of milk.

The cooperative’s ambition extended far beyond upgrading infrastructure.

Recognising the importance of knowledge and training, NARIGP equipped Kaptama Co-op Society members with essential skills in management, bookkeeping and market linkages.

Under NARIGP’s stewarship, a new team of leaders emerged – visionaries armed with skills, expertise and acumen to steer the cooperative towards the unprecedented heights of success.

Cattle breeds

Today, the fruits of the farmers’ labour are there for everyone to witness.

With a membership of 4,000, Kaptama Dairy Cooperative Society stands as an example of successs, a far cry from its humble origins.

Empowered by the adoption of high-yielding dairy cattle breeds like Friesian, Ayrshire, Guernsey and Jersey, members now boast an impressive milk aggregation and sales volume of at least 6,000 litres per day, fetching a monthly revenue of Sh7.2 million.

This is a significant leap from the little earnings of yesteryears, thanks to NARIGP’s intervention and support programmes.

Currently, a litre of raw milk goes for Sh40.

Before NARIGP, the cooperative could sell an average of 300 litres of milk per day at Sh28 per litre.

Kaptama Dairy Cooperative Society at the time made about Sh252, 000 a month.

But their journey is far from over.

Buoyed by newfound confidence and ambition, the dairy farmers of Kaptama set their sights on the horizon, envisioning a future ripe with opportunities. Value-addition was the way to go.

 “Value-added products hold the key to a lucrative market,” Ndiwa says.

 “The cooperative now aspires to venture into yoghurt and cheese processing, further diversifying our offerings and enhancing our profits.”

The collaborative efforts of the cooperative extend beyond dairy farming. Through strategic partnerships with microfinance institutions and the formation of a Sacco, it is paving the way for farmers to access crucial financial resources, empowering them to embark on new investments and ventures with confidence.