For many years, dairy farming has been synonymous with Central and Rift Valley, where farmers form cooperatives to supply milk and its byproducts.
But farmers from Kaiti Dairy Cooperative Society in Makueni county have joined the bandwagon.
The cooperative was founded by 59 members and was then known as Mukuyuni Dairy Value Self Help Group. It was registered in 2017 as a cooperative society and the membership increased to 144.
The group comprises 50 women, 10 youths and 84 men. It has two milk coolers, with 500-litre capacity each. This helps them store milk in hygienic conditions before they sell to customers
The group buys a litre of milk at Sh40 and sells it at Sh50.
Treasurer Raphael Mbuyu said the aim was to increase production and improve dairy farming in Ukia ward in Mukuyuni.
Things only got better for the group after they received Sh1 million loan, thanks to the Programme for the Rural Outreach of Financial Innovations and Technologies.
The programme was funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) in partnership with the government and AGRA. “We wanted to unite, increase production and exchange ideas. This is what we did and went to Universal Traders Sacco (UTS) for a loan of Sh1 million a year ago,” Jonah Malika Mueke, the chairman of the Mukuyuni market-based group in Makueni county, said.
The farmers were also trained on financial, group governance and business management by AGRA, Agricultural Finance Corporation (AFC) and UTS.
“They trained us on how to manage funds and gave us the loan at 10 per cent interest rate per year to set up a dairy business,” Mueke said.
After the group repays the loan by early next year, members intend to take another loan to instal more selling centres across the county and access interior areas to buy more milk.
“From our survey, we have realised that we get only 25 per cent of the milk produced by farmers in this region. We want to buy motorcycles so that we can get 100 per cent of the milk from farmers who find it hard to reach here,” Mueke said.
Mbuyu said society members recommend and co-guarantee fellow members to be able to access loans.
He said this helps women members who have previously been denied loans by mainstream financial institutions that require them to have collateral such as title deeds and vehicle log books.
Secretary Paul Ndambuki has benefited from a loan and has invested in dairy farming. “I was recommended by a fellow member and when I walked to the UTS, the process was seamless. I got a loan in less than a week. I have bought five in-calf heifers,” he said.
Apart from the loans, members can also get farm inputs from UTS and pay using the milk they deliver to the dairy centre. “We liaise with the sacco to make sure they get their money from us and we pay the balance to the farmers,” Mbuyu said.
James Kaluma, the cooling and pasteurising centre’s manager, said they process 500-700 litres per day but with a storage capacity of 1,000, the members intend to invest more so they can reap optimal benefits.
“If we can acquire more milk coolers, we can produce more milk to earn us more money. Currently, we buy a litre at Sh40 and sell it at Sh50. With more production, we can pay more to the farmers,” Kaluma said.
The group also grows Brachiaria grass, which they sell to people from as far as Thika, Naivasha and Nyeri.