What you need to know:
- In 2014, Ainabkoi New Progressive Dairy Farmers Group started rearing dairy cattle and selling their milk in bulk.
- The group now supplies milk to Ainabkoi Dairy Farmers Cooperative who then sell it to the New KCC.
- In 2016, they acquired a machine like forage harvester to make silage, enabling them to make their own feeds. This helped in cutting cost and improved the mill production.
For more than a decade, Madgeline Buigut has practiced dairy farming though it was unprofitable.
When she joined hands with like-minded farmers in the Ainabkoi New Progressive Dairy Farmers Group, she saw change. The group brings together five women and nine men who supplement their sources of income with dairy farming.
“We used to see cows as pets, but now we are part owners. We would milk them then our husbands sell the milk and buy us household items, but we are now partners... we now own what comes back, if I need to buy a dress, I simply do,” says Ms Buigut.
In 2014, they started rearing dairy cattle and selling their milk in bulk. This made it easier to bargain for better prices.
Prior to this, most members didn’t know the best cattle feeds, leading low milk production. They also relied on brokers to sell their milk and this meant less income.
The group now supplies milk to Ainabkoi Dairy Farmers Cooperative who then sell it to the New KCC. They pump the proceeds to a savings kitty.
Group members can borrow up to Sh100,000 to transform their livelihoods.
“We visit each other’s farm to ensure members are implementing what we agree on. We want every member to increase their milk volumes,” observes the 65-year-old farmer.
Catherine Kiplagat, a member who rears 18 dairy cows says the group has transformed her livelihood.
“We are happy because, traditionally, in the Kalenjin community, only goats and chicken belonged to women while cows were a preserve for men...but now are actively involved in managing cows...We are now empowered and our living standards have improved. One can even buy personal items without waiting for her husband,” she says.
Ms Kiplagat adds that through the group they get easy access to loans. “We don't go to the bank directly nowadays; we just borrow from the Sacco and repay. We have been able to borrow loans to buy machines...milk cans,” she observes.
Ms Buigut says they visit each other’s farm to ensure every member has implemented what they agree on.
“We also attend training on dairy farming together.” she explains.
In 2016, they acquired a machine like forage harvester to make silage, enabling them to make their own feeds. This helped in cutting cost and improved the mill production.
Lack of machines in some of the farms and diseases have, however, affected their produce.
Profitable dairy farming
“You wake up one morning and a worker tells you he will no longer be working for you and then realise he is working for another farmer…we are thinking of getting milk machines,” says Ms Kiplagat.
They hold monthly meetings where they invite other women and guide them on how to run a dairy enterprises as part of empowerment. Fortunately, some of the invitees are embracing the profitable dairy farming.
“We are encouraging women and the youth to engage in farming because there is money in it. We are happy that more than 20 farmers are slowly embracing the venture . . . Dairy is healthy, you get a piece of mind. Farming is not a dirty job,” she observes.
The group has benefited through training from national and county government programmes like Smallholder Dairy Commercialisation Programme, Kenya Climate Smart Project and Kenya Market-led project spearheaded by the Heifer International. They have been trained on clean milk production, milk handling, calf-rearing and feed conservation. Ms Buigut says they plan to diversity to horticultural farming especially potatoes to increase their earnings.
"We now have an eye to detail and can notice small things like if a cow is not well fed,” says Lydia Kirandich, another member.