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City farmer turns to dairy farming

A frustrated city job seeker, originally from Nyeri county, finally found solace and a career in goat keeping in Nairobi after a year of tarmacking

Sixty-one-year-old Aurelia Wambui had arrived early at the Jamhuri Agricultural Society of Kenya (ASK) Showgrounds in Nairobi. She was at the point of leaving when a large crowd at a stall in the livestock section drew her attention. Aurelia moved closer.

She found Francis Wachira busy sharing information about the benefits of dairy goat rearing. Aurelia had drunk goat milk before but she stopped when market outlets in the city stopped selling the dairy product. So, was Wachira in a position to guarantee a reliable supply?

“I was full of vigour when I used to drink goat and camel milk. I had stopped getting ill often but the supermarkets I frequent don’t have the milk anymore,” she told Wachira. Goat keeping is an alternative farming practice, which has good prospects near urban centres.

Wachira sells goat milk but recently also moved on to value addition by making dairy goat yoghurt. “The milk is popular because it’s rich in proteins and calcium, according to Global Healing Centre that says goats produce about two per cent of the global milk supply,” says Wachira.

Wachira says patients suffering from high blood pressure, diabetes and HIV prefer goat milk as it has more nutritional value compared to cow milk. Many people who consume goat milk also cite a lower incidence of allergies and digestive complaints.

Urban farmer Francis Wachira’s goats in a Nairobi estate. Photo/WAHINYA HENRY

Veterinary expert, Josiah arap Malakwen, says dairy goat is one of the easiest types of dairy farming and therefore good for farmers in the urban and peri-urban areas.

“Goats do not require one to own a big land to rear and they are less expensive to buy compared to cattle,” he says.

The goat’s prices depend on the age, type and gender. In a good month, Wachira makes Sh90,000 from the five goats he keeps.

Each goat produces 15 litres of milk per day, which he sells at Sh200 per litre. “That is good income. I’m capable of adding more goats,” says Wachira.

However, accessing the market is a challenge. “Recently, new hotels have shown interest in goat milk.

We need to change the attitudes of out people,” adds Wachira. He rears the popular Alphine and Toggenburg German breeds, which are high milk producers.

He feeds them on dry fodder and salt to make them drink water to boost milk production. “We don’t have pure goats in Kenya so I have to crossbreed them,” he says. He plans to add more goats in his rented one-bedroom house in the densely populated Eastlands area of Nairobi where he practices urban farming.

Wachira came to Nairobi as a young man in search of greener pastures straight from upcountry and settled in a city council house. In an effort to improve his economic status, he ventured into farming in the city. His milk is now popular among residents of his home estate.

Today, his household budget does not require him to dig too deep in his pockets as most of what he and his family need, he grows in his farm. “With the wrong perception and attitude, brought by lack of information, we Africans and the world at large will remain stuck in a quagmire of problems that seem to never end,” says the farmer.

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